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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Body cameras to make debut with CSPD

The College Station Police Department received the go-ahead late last month for the purchase of 16 body cameras, joining other local law enforcement offices in using the technology for police documentation and transparency.
The decision came as part of a $253 million dollar budget unanimously passed Sept. 23 by the College Station City Council. The cameras, which will first go to officers on motorcycles and bicycles, are part of a plan to eventually equip the entire department with the devices.
Lt. Chuck Fleeger, public information officer for the College Station Police Department, said the decision to purchase the body cameras was part of the department’s routine evaluation of new technologies for officers.
“It’s a situation where, as new technology becomes available, we evaluate it and we adopt it,” Fleeger said.
Fleeger said the decision to first equip the bicycle and motorcycle officers was due in large part to the dense populations they work in, adding a measure of transparency and protection.
“The bicycle officers tend to work in a densely populated area — that being our entertainment district, the Northgate area,” Fleeger said. “Our traffic officers, they have more contacts than probably anybody else simply because of the sheer number of instances they come into contact with people. So it gives us — in addition to providing transparency as a department — it provides protection for the officers as well as for the public.”
Lt. Allan Baron, public information officer for the University Police Department, said UPD has used body cameras for about two years and said UPD was, to his knowledge, the first department in the county to adopt the technology.
“The use of video in the field is nothing new — it’s just a new type of device for these officers to use when working with the public,” Baron said. “It’s a very valuable tool in documenting the actions of the officer, as well as what the officer is seeing in the field.”
Jim Stuart, chief deputy for the Brazos County Sheriff’s Office, said the department has used its 49 body cameras, purchased with grant money, for about one year.
Stuart said the cameras are useful in three aspects: to facilitate deputies’ work, to prevent them from being unfairly accused and as a useful piece of technology to document history.
“The deputies, when they go out on a call, they’re talking to an individual,” Stuart said. “They don’t have to be so intent on making notes or relying upon their memory because it’s catching a video and audio of their interaction with that person.”
Stuart said law enforcement officers are not often unfairly accused, but in such incidents a body camera could help determine the facts.
“There’s two sides to every story, and people recollecting what they thought they heard sometimes is a little different than what actually was said,” Stuart said. “So it facilitates us in substantiating a deputy’s perception of what went on.”
Fleeger said the vast majority of police officers do a tough job well, but said the body cameras could potentially highlight areas for improvement.
While Fleeger said he expects the cameras to be another good tool in the officers’ arsenal, he said it would be just that — a tool — and said officer safety would always take priority.
“It’s another tool in our tool belt to use,” Fleeger said. “But the same as with any other type of technology, any other tool, it has limits as to what it can and can’t do. This is not some type of a ‘magic wand’ that fixes everything. Say an officer rounds a corner up at Northgate, and all of a sudden there’s somebody there charging at them with a beer bottle or a knife. What I’m going to tell my officers is you need to do whatever it is you need to do to keep yourself safe, don’t sit there and go, ‘Oh, wait, hold on Mr. Badguy, I need to turn on my camera,’ and then do something.”

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