FPD gets body cameras

Published 12:04 am Thursday, June 11, 2015

Citizens in Florala may notice an extra eye looking at them when they come in contact with police officers.

The FPD issued Watchguard Vista Camera Systems to its full time and part time officers on the force Monday.

Shown is one of the new FPD body cameras. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Shown is one of the new FPD body cameras. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Florala Police Chief Sonny Bedsole said the city council gave him the go ahead to order the department some good camera systems.

“I did a little research and looked at several different brands, and we decided on the Watchguard Vista Camera Systems,” Bedsole said. “It runs for about 12 hours, and has nine hours of (high definition) recording time on it.”

The cameras are 5.3 ounces and hold 4 gigabytes of memory.

Bedsole said the way the system works is that an officer comes in and plugs the camera into a docking station, which then automatically downloads the audio and video recordings into a computer that’s password protected.

Bedsole said the camera stays on all the time, and city policy mandates that officers press record anytime they come in contact with citizens.

“Any contact, whether it’s a citizen coming in and filing a report,” he said. “We’ll document what we did because there will be no questions about what is said and done.”

Bedsole said eight cameras were purchased for a little more than $7,200. Two officers work per shift unless there’s some kind of special detail.

One of the advantages of having the cameras is that officers will be able to record video, along with audio, when they respond to domestic violence calls, Bedsole said.

“We have the in-car cameras obviously, but when you go into a house on a domestic, and stuff like that, you are able to record audio, but you can’t see what’s physically going on,” he said.

Bedsole said these cameras will protect his officers and the public.

“We’re really happy to have the cameras,” he said. “We don’t have anything we try to hide. People may not like what we have to do. Obviously, we’re there to enforce the law, but it’ll document what happened.”

The Andalusia Police Department, the Opp Police Department and the Covington County Sheriff’s Office are working on applying for a federal grant to help purchase the camera systems for officers.

Additionally, River Falls police officers have body cameras. Red Level is in the process of trying to obtain some cameras.