Grant funds body cams for officers

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Andalusia, Opp cops, county deputies to wear new gear

Almost all law enforcement officers in Covington County will soon be wearing body cameras, thanks to a grant obtained by the City of Andalusia.

APD Chief Paul Hudson said Andalusia applied for the federal grant, but included officers in Opp and the Covington County Sheriff’s Department.

This week, it was one of only 73 grants awarded, and the only grant application from Alabama funded.

The $87,224 Department of Justice grant will fund 81 body-worn cameras locally.

The cameras are touted as a way to reduce the use of force and clear up questions about disputed encounters. Interest in the technology soared after a series of fatal encounters between police officers and unarmed civilians, beginning last year with the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo.

Earlier this year, Hudson said, the APD led the collaborative effort to seek funding and to develop county-wide policies for the use of the cameras, one of the grant requirements.

The goal of the collaboration is to develop comprehensive, problem-solving approach that incorporates body worn cameras into officer practice throughout Covington County, he said. The collaborative effort will utilize an Advisory Council made up of the public, officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, community agencies, victim advocates and law enforcement administration in order to jointly establish the best protocols and policies for body worn camera use and digital media evidence storage.

Hudson said policy, privacy, and training are the most important part of this program.

“Receiving this funding will allow us to implement and review policies, improve protection to our officers, properly train our officers on the privacy and use of the cameras, and allow a more thorough look into any complaints made by citizens regarding officer misconduct,” Hudson said.

There were 285 applications for the funding. The closest agency to receive funding was in Pensacola.

According to the Justice Department, the program also provided funding for research the impact of the cameras in Miami, Milwaukee, and Phoenix.

Already, the Covington County Sheriff’s Department has a few cameras in use, and the Florala Police Department provided officers with the cameras in June.