Lake Charles police officers now using body cams

Published: Aug. 17, 2016 at 4:54 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 18, 2016 at 2:06 AM CDT
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(Source: KPLC)
(Source: KPLC)

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The Lake Charles Police Department has been discussing body cameras for the past few years, but Wednesday night, their officers could finally put them to use.

Chief Don Dixon made the announcement during an afternoon news conference.

"When the officers go on duty tonight, for the first time they'll be wearing them out in public," explained Dixon.

Dixon said anytime officers are dispatched or do a self-initiated contact with the public, "they'll be required by policy and procedure to activate the camera."

Officers will immediately begin using their 110 current "WatchGuard" body cameras - which work with their in-car cameras - until the new "Vista" version becomes available.

"The difference between the Vista and the current one is that Vista can be downloaded automatically via Wi-Fi when you pull up to a docking station," explained Dixon.

He said they're able to keep raw video for a minimum of 13 months but can tag it, which saves it indefinitely.

Demonstrating the 32-gigabyte cameras, Sgt. Tim Pruitt said you simply press a button to activate the camera. When finished, Pruitt said the officer will then place it on a transfer station, "which is hard-wired into our network and it will offload the video into what we call the evidence library."

Dixon added, "When you know you're on camera and we know we're on camera, you're going to be on your best behavior. Is this going to be a solve all? No it's not, but it is a tool."

While Dixon said the goal is to provide transparency, officers do have the discretion to turn them off.

"There may be instances where we come across informants or victims of sexual assaults or juveniles but before they turn it off, they're going to have to articulate why they're turning it off and the date and the time," explained Dixon.

"So far, we've spent $150,000 on the body camera equipment," said Mayor Randy Roach.

Roach said that's in addition to another $100,000 they spent this year, upgrading the in-car camera system.

"We've budgeted additional funds in this year's budget, which has not yet been approved but has been submitted to the council for additional cameras to be purchased by the department," he said.

"We hope to get an additional 30 next fiscal year," added Dixon.

According to Roach, "It's a commitment on the part of the department to implement a program to make sure that our community has confidence in the work that is being done."

Dixon said a study following 48 Orlando police officers for a year resulted in a 53-percent decrease in the use of force. Plus, civilian complaints during that same time period reduced 63-percent.

The police department's policies and procedures regarding body cameras are in this story for you to review.

Copyright 2016 KPLC. All rights reserved.