CSU officers using upgraded body cameras

CSU officers using upgraded body cameras

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Columbus State University police are upgrading their officer-worn camera equipment. While many law enforcement officers usually have their cameras inside their patrol vehicles, CSU police are investing in body cameras for their officers to wear and work.

Lt. Jeremy Reddish with the CSU police department says all 25 university officers have worked with these body cameras for the last five years. He also says the officers are excited to use these new, upgraded body cameras starting on the second week of Dec. 2014.

"We are really fortunate and excited to be able to incorporate this technology into what we do every day," Reddish explained. "Years ago, our officers were hesitant about using these cameras, but once they saw what great tool it was to capture quality audio and video to supplement their police reports with important data, they are all excited to use them now. They love it."

A group of law enforcement officers met at Columbus State University Tuesday to discuss and learn more about these body cameras.

"We did a research recently to see what other universities or colleges across the state of Georgia were using these body cameras," Reddish said. "University of Georgia is the only other university where its campus officers would be using them. We didn't find any other schools utilizing them. It's a fairly new technology but it's catching on and it's spreading nationwide."

Reddish says the new body cameras will allow the officers to collect better audio and video to use as video evidence.

"The vehicle cameras weren't practical because we are outside the car so much," Reddish said. "Our officers are out on the campus often times. So this body camera allows us to go anywhere on campus, it's completely mobile and we needed a camera that could travel with the officer."

Reddish also explained the department purchased more than 25 new body cameras to give to all of their officers. Each body camera cost about $295 and Reddish says the department spent about $8,000 on their cameras and video storage server.

"The new camera has night vision capability and it also comes with a software package where it will automatically extract video and upload it to the video storage server," Reddish explained. "It will name and categorize that video which was something we didn't have with the old cameras."

Reddish explained the university police department is fortunate to have support from CSU to purchase necessary equipment to provide quality service to students and staff members.

"We only have 25 officers,"Reddish said. "So it's often easier for us to get new equipment compared to other local law enforcement agencies."

Michael Brown's shooting by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri had caused a national uproar. National reports stated officers in Ferguson started wearing body cameras after Brown's fatal shooting. Many people across the country started voicing their opinions on officers wearing body cameras.

Muscogee County Sheriff's Office also uses body cameras. Major Randy Robertson said it's been about a year since the Sheriff's office started using these body cameras. He said the body cameras are used in jail, courts, and civil and warrants service units.

Jail tasers and sex offender management teams also use these body cameras. Major Robertson explained the office is reviewing options and expenses to see if the office might need to get more body cameras.

The Marshal's office also bought four body cameras about a month ago to test and try the equipment.  Muscogee County Marshal Greg Countryman said the department is working on a policy for the cameras and officers are testing them out to see if these body cameras would be good to use for safety purposes.

Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren also told News Leader 9 he attempted to get body cameras for his officers when he stood at council a few weeks ago. Chief Boren said each camera unit cost about $800 and with more than 400 police officers working, Boren said the department didn't have enough financial resources to make the purchase.

He also explained the best way to purchase these body cameras would be to buy them all at once so all officers could wear them to work in order to avoid any problems or conspiracy. Boren also mentioned some worried these body cameras would violate the 4th amendment if officers ever had to enter and search private homes or buildings, so Boren said there would be some issues the department would have to fix or work with, if they ever buy body cameras.

Lt.Reddish says the CSU police department is training their officers to know when not to use body cameras as well.

"We discussed privacy concerns in our training," Reddish explained. "We have taken that into consideration and there would be times when we don't want our officers to record or use their body cameras. If officers were to go into someone's house for domestic issue, we want to make sure they turn their cameras off. So there are times to turn the camera on and off. We make sure to discuss this issue as often as we can."

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