Lamar police buy new body-worn patrol cameras

Body camera used by Lamar police

The Lamar University Police Department (LUPD) is expanding its use of body-worn cameras. Cameras are already in use across campus, according to a Lamar press release, from the campus security camera system to cameras in each LUPD patrol unit. Recording the interactions of officers with the public is a long-established policy.

LUPD has upgraded its equipment issued to patrol officers during their shift with the purchase of 10 VieVu LE3 body-worn cameras. The cameras record both the actions of the wearer and those in its field of view.

Ten cameras are enough for every officer on patrol, said Corporal Jarrod Samford of the LUPD. At $899 each, it is a significant investment, the press release said.

Samford says the new cameras are a large improvement over ones the department has used before. The older cameras were much smaller, more difficult to operate, and had a limited field of view that often made them useful only for capturing audio, he said.

The new cameras capture a 68-degree field of view, very nearly matching the officer’s focus, without distorting distances as a “fisheye” view does.

A digital signature process is used to verify that the video has not been altered and security software prevents unauthorized access to the camera’s contents should it be lost or stolen.

“Anytime there’s a situation, there will be cameras,” Samford said. “We work as if there is a camera on us at all times.”

“We have good officers who do good things, but sometimes we have to get into a physical confrontation where there is a use of force to get to the objective,” Samford said. “The objective is to stop the threat.”

From first response to resolution, continual documentation by body-worn cameras is a tool that helps everyone, Samford said.

“It will help us and the public because it will show all of the encounter, not just the end,” Samford said. “It works both ways, like two sides of a coin ; being recorded keeps fingers from being pointed. I think it’s good for everyone.”

Turning the cameras on is as simple as sliding the front cover down, Samford said.

Each officer must remember to turn the device on at the beginning of a call or situation. “It’s our policy that the camera is turned on any time there is an encounter with anyone,” he said.

Having a camera that recorded at all times would raise significant privacy concerns, Samford said.

Normally clipped on the vest, the cameras have a 5-hour internal battery and capacity to store up to 12 hours of HD video.

The new cameras go hand-in-hand with the Coban equipment in the police units, Samford said. At the end of each shift, the cameras are checked back in and the content downloaded. Every encounter is recorded and reviewed by supervisors, he said.

— LU press release