Tiny Cameras Assist Police

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EUGENE, Ore. — We’ve all seen them before, dramatic clips from police car dash cams. Now departments all over the country are using “body cams,” tiny devices that clip onto officers’ uniforms.

“I would come up, I would flip this shutter down. Right now, I’m recording,” said Sgt. Larry Crompton, Eugene Police Department.

Sgt. Crompton has been wearing a body cam for about a year and half. As supervisor of the downtown team, he’s one of only a dozen or so Eugene Police officers who’ve been issued the high-tech gadget.

Not much bigger than a credit card, the camera records up to 12 hours of video and audio with just the flip of the switch. The devices capture everything from the mundane to the heart pounding events.

Crompton says he likes the recording system.

“I really would not want to go to work without one,” Sgt. Crompton said.

The video protects him and his officers from accusations of disrespect that often come from working downtown.

“We go back and review the video and find out that it never actually occurred. The vast majority of situations of body cams have been advantageous to us,” Sgt. Crompton said.

One study, done in Rialto, California, showed body cams led to a 59 percent reduction in use of force incidents and an 88 percent reduction in complaints.

“I think if you don’t have body cams you’re going to be one of those agencies who are going to justify why you don’t have it,” said Capt. Karl Durr, Eugene Police Department.

Capt. Durr says dashboard cameras have been in use for decades and body cams are simply the next step in technology.

Besides the downtown team, EPD’s motorcycle officers also wear the recorders. Capt. Durr agrees with Sgt. Crompton that the video is useful in settling disputes, such as the time a daughter told her father that the cops were abusive towards her.

“The father was pretty irate, comes in here, and the supervisor sits the father down and shows him the camera system, oh, that’s not really the way my daughter depicted it,” Capt. Durr said.

The video can also lead to improving officer conduct.

“There’s coaching that goes on between the sergeant and the officer. Hey you could have said this a little bit differently,” Capt. Durr said.

EPD plans to purchase at least 100 more body cams to go with the 18 they have now. The department is currently evaluating three different companies, with prices ranging from $300 to $900 per camera.

It’s a far cry from the technology of the past, but Sgt. Crompton says he can’t imagine doing his job without a body cam.

“We record them, they record us. It can get comical. But it’s all good,” Sgt. Crompton said.

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