Johnson County Sheriff’s Dept. Going “Robo-Cop”

by on June 16, 2011

in criminal charges

The Johnson County Sheriff’s Department has joined more than 100 other departments across the nation in using ear-mounted cameras developed by Taser International, Inc. While 100 departments are testing the cameras, only 16 (including Johnson County) have actually purchased the equipment. While the cameras and upkeep are somewhat expensive, the department hopes they more than pay for themselves in crime prevention and evidence.

Each unit costs $1,700 initially and about $1,300 annually to store and back up the video. While the department hasn’t revealed how many camera systems they’ve purchased, they no doubt made it worth the decision, using them for “domestic violence calls, on SWAT teams, for warrant searches, and to document sobriety tests,” according to the Kansas City Star.

According to Sgt. Paul Nonnast, “This is a game changer. Police and suspects behave better when they know it’s being recorded.” Ideally, the cameras won’t only keep suspects in check, but also the officers who wear them.

Even though the cameras are fairly new, the department has already seen some police complaints be dropped after the complainant saw the video of which they were a party to.

Each camera hooks behind the ear similar to a blue-tooth phone device. The camera plugs into a unit on the chest which is connected to a radio and belt computer with monitor. They don’t have to be worn on the ear but can also be mounted on the helmet of an officer or even held in the hand.

At the end of each shift, the officers are required to upload the video, which cannot be altered or destroyed. The digital footage is stored and maintained by the Taser company.

There are many positive aspects of having each officer outfitted with a camera. Among all of them, an actual picture of what happened at the time of an arrest is no doubt the most valuable.

Often in court accounts of an arrest end up being what the officer says versus the defendant’s view of what happened. And sometimes these accounts vary widely. When there’s a video of the scene, there’s little question about what happened and little room for misinterpretation.

Such technology might seem invasive and depending on the location of the arrest could infringe on someone’s personal property, but the detailed account of an arrest is a valuable tool for everyone involved in an arrest. Situations like this also bring up good points in the arguments for allowing citizens to record police—it’s a two way street.

Not all defendants are fortunate enough to have a video tape of their arrest. As a matter of fact, very few arrests are documented in this manner. In traditional arrests, everything is taken down on paper and it’s the cop’s word versus yours.

When you’ve been arrested and are facing criminal charges you might wonder if a judge will believe your account. Consulting with a criminal defense attorney can help you determine what your chances of success are in the courtroom and also help you determine a course of action most likely to end with positive results.

Contact my offices today in Johnson County for a consultation on any criminal case in the Kansas City area.


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