The Athens Police Department will receive new Tasers and body cameras that could be used by officers as early as September.
An ordinance was approved by City Council on April 1 to purchase 20 body cameras and Tasers from Axon, according to a previous Post report.
The package would cost about $214,000, which the City of Athens would pay off in installments over five years. City Council is also seeing if insurance companies could help cover some of the costs for the cameras and tasers.
The body cameras are Body 3 cameras from Axon. APD Chief Tom Pyle said the latest generation camera that has not be released yet.
According to the Axon website, Body 3 cameras have improved video and audio quality with four built in microphones, reduced motion blur and improved low-light performance. Video can also be previewed over LTE and uploaded wirelessly.
The cameras will be able to be activated in three ways: manually, holster activation, and siren and lights activation.
Pyle said officers will probably manually activate the camera majority of the time.
“Typically on most calls, we don’t drive lights and siren, don’t draw our pistol and don’t draw Tasers,” Pyle said. “Most of the time officers will manually activate the camera.”
The Taser 7 is supposed to improve the performance, such as when they miss and clothing disconnects. Officers can have “more confidence to de-escalate or pause dangerous situations,” according to the Axon website.
Pyle said that when the Taser 7 is turned on and not used, it activates the officer’s camera and any camera in the vicinity.
“If I have five officers at the scene and one of them draws the taser, all five cameras come on if they are wearing a camera,” Pyle said.
The final activation method is through the lights and sirens on the cruiser. When officers are driving and activate their lights or siren, the camera turns on.
APD will enter into the contract before June 30, and the cameras most likely won’t be deployed until the fall, sometime between September and November.
Pyle said there is a lot of planning for the different aspects that will go into receiving the Tasers and body cameras. APD plans for possible technology glitches, retrofits for the cruisers and holsters, and training officers to use the equipment and software program to help manage the footage.
“There is a lot of logistics that have to go in place and even though you can plan that out on a calendar, it 100 percent never works that way,” Pyle said.
Pyle said it was first suggested that APD get the body cameras about four years ago and are more widespread now. APD has been asking for funding for the cameras for about two years and finally got it this year.
According to a previous Post report, City Council discussed the possibility of APD getting body cameras in 2017. APD is the second local agency to consider body cameras. The Athens County Sheriff’s Office considered body cameras in 2016, but Sheriff Rodney Smith decided to stick with dashboard cameras.
The body cameras used are to help provide evidence for prosecution and for case conclusion. Pyle said that in the past four to five years, it has been demonstrated that body cameras create a significant improvement in case conviction rates.
“A lot of people think that cameras are all about cops catching people acting inappropriately,” Pyle said. “That’s rarely the case. ... Thankfully when it does catch a dirty cop being dirty that’s good for law enforcement because nobody hates a dirty cop more than an honest cop because they make their jobs so difficult.”
Pyle said he believes the cameras would be a benefit to Athens to help assist people in receiving better criminal justice.