ST. GEORGE – The St. George Police Department has become the newest and largest police agency in Southern Utah to begin using body cameras.
“We just think it’s another tool that will help officers,” St. George City Police Sgt. Sam Despain said. “It’s a piece of equipment that can provide another perspective.”
Approximately 71 officers will be outfitted with body cameras at a cost of $600 each per unit, coming in at over $42,000 overall. The police department ordered the cameras from a company called VIDMIC, Despain said, which incorporates exiting equipment used by the police into its overall design.
“Each officer carries a hand-held radio and a lapel mic with that radio, it’s something we always carry,” he said, “What VIDMIC has done is incorporate the camera into the mic. These are not only our lapel mics for our radios, but the camera is built in that system as well.”
Another feature that drew St. George Police to the model is its Wi-Fi capability. Video and audio recordings, as well as still photos taken with the body cams, are all automatically downloaded into servers when they come within range of the police station.
Another police agency in Southern Utah that uses body cameras is the Santa Clara-Ivins Police Department.
“We love them, they’re a great tool,” Santa Clara-Ivins Police Officer Chad Holt said. His department has been using the body cams for about two years now.
Holt said the beauty of the cameras is their “inability to lie” and to help set straight possible confusion arising from police incidents. Despain echoed that sentiment.
“A picture is worth 1,000 words, and often times that footage can help in explaining what happened,” Despain said. “So we feel this is a valuable tool.”
Another agency about to implement the use of body cams is the Hurricane City Police Department. The Washington City Police Department is also looking into ordering the devices for its officers.
“It’s just another tool, kind of an extension of the dash cams,” Washington City Police spokesman Ed Kantor said.
The St. George Police Department has already been using cameras in its patrol cars for the past 15-20 years, Despain said, so extending the range with body cams really isn’t a new concept and it won’t change how the police generally operate.
“It doesn’t change the way we do police work,” he said. “Really nothing changes for us. It’s just another tool.”
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