Cleveland Police to test "body cameras"

1:03 AM, Feb 19, 2013   |    comments
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SOLON -- Among the criticisms of that Cleveland police chase that ended in the deaths of two unarmed suspects is that the shooting was not caught on camera.

That is all about to change.

The Cleveland police department has just acquired 32 new cameras but it's not your traditional dash cam.

Cleveland police bought what are called "body cameras." They will be used by patrols in the districts, one in the gymnasium unit and one in the homicide unit.

The city got these cameras for training and testing before buying for the whole department.

We learn the pluses and minuses from Solon's police department that has been using body cams the last two years.

Dash cameras have proven invaluable to Solon police and other departments in northeast Ohio.

"You have the footage from the time you run the license plate, from the time you make the stop, to the communication that you have with the driver and the occupants," Solon Police Sgt. Jim Cabot said.

Cabot says they protect the public as well as police but they have limitations.

"You can see just what's in front of the car. If we move to the left or the right of the camera, you can't see anything," Sgt. Cabot said.

Enter the next level of video surveillance -- the "Body Cam."

"They don't get in the way of anything. You can put it in your pocket where you ordinarily put your pen," Sgt Cabot said.

Body cams go where dash cameras cannot. They go in parking lots they go on foot chases, they go in houses and businesses where police do most of their work.

The cameras digitally record the officer's point of view, what is being seen and said.

"We'll put these on and we'll obtain statements from people, confessions. It's all on tape. It is recorded," Sgt. Cabot said.

With all their mobile benefits, body cameras also have limitations. They're fragile, easily broken or lost.

Officers must turn them on and off manually . Still, like all technology, when it works, it works well.

"It kinda takes the he said she said thing away from the incident and the officers can record all of the conversation that they had," Sgt. Cabot said.

The body camera is far less expensive than dash cam units. The Solon cameras cost $110 apiece. Dash cams cost thousands per car.

The Cleveland cameras will be field tested in the coming months.


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