ST. GEORGE – Last year the St. George Police Department began to use body cameras on a trial basis as it searched for the best model to suit its needs. Last week the St. George City Council approved the purchase of 75 body cameras for the police force.
“The camera before you today is the best camera for us,” St. George Police Chief Marlon Stratton said Thursday during the council meeting.
The new body cameras and associated systems are running the city $80,190 and are being purchased from a company called Reveal.
“We’re excited to get these cameras to every officer out there,” Stratton said.
Features on the camera include an adjustable camera head and an LED screen that will show an individual they are being recorded. Stratton said he liked the latter feature because he believes everyone generally behaves better when they understand they’re being recorded.
Stratton anticipated that the general roll out and implementation of the new body cameras could take a month or more once they arrive.
“We think it’s worth it to protect our officers and show what’s happening to our citizens,” City Manager Gary Esplin said.
With the use of the cameras also comes the need to bring on a new, full-time employee who will manage the data and documentation they produce, Esplin said. This will include learning how to address privacy issues and requests from media for footage.
“It’s going to be a learning process for us,” Esplin said.
Earlier this year the Utah Legislature passed a bill providing minimal guidelines for the body cameras used by law enforcement. The bill also amended the state’s public records laws to account for situations when privacy is a concern, such as when video is shot in someone’s home.
When interviewed last year about body cameras the police had begun to use, Sgt. Sam Despain said the cameras were really just another tool to aid officers.
“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.”
Using cameras in their work is nothing new for the St. George Police Department, as they have employed dash-cameras in their vehicles over the last two decades.
Body cameras are becoming an increasingly common tool for law enforcement in recent years.
While aiding in investigations in general, body camera videos can also help determine if an incident like an officer-involved shooting was considered justified or not, or show if officers may have acted in way unbefitting of the badge they wear.
“I receive complaints periodically on officers,” Stratton said. “It would sure be nice to pull a camera and see exactly what happened.”
The chief added: “We think (the cameras are) going to show what a great Department we have and how great our officers do their jobs.”
Other police agencies in Washington County that use body cameras include the Santa Clara-Ivins and Washington City police departments. Among law enforcment The St. George Police Department is the largest law enforcement agency in the county.
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