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Use of body cameras by police on the rise

Published: Dec. 5, 2014 at 1:40 AM CST
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TYLER, TX (KLTV) - The New York Police department announced Thursday that it is launching an internal affairs investigation into the death of the man who was choked by an officer.

That choke was caught on camera and renewed protests across the country after a grand jury decided not to indict the New York police officer.

Wednesday, the NYPD announced that it was launching a pilot program to test body cameras for their officers.

Several East Texas law enforcement offices already use body cameras, including the police department of an East Texas college.

The Tyler Junior College Police Department Sergeant Jimmie Vickers-Dews said that the body cameras make him feel safe and have helped resolve several conflicts, including one in which a parent of a student claimed an officer was disrespectful to a student.

"That wasn't the case at all. We could clearly depict the officer being friendly, nice and supportive," said Sergeant Vickers-Dews.

The police department has been using body cameras for more than a year. They can be turned on during an encounter with a simple swipe of the finger. It records color video and audio. The video is then downloaded and saved onto a DVD.

The cameras come with a price at $750.00 each for this twenty officer force.

"It's actually more than some of the firearms we wear, more than the taser," said Sgt. Vickers-Dews, "It's costly, but it's worth it."

Studies show that about 25% of police departments across the U.S. use body cameras.

"Looking at what's happening locally, and nationally, issues regarding officer protection, sometimes when there are stories and complaints and investigations or when things go wrong, when there is a contrast. It's really important to find out the truth," said Sgt. Vickers, "Somewhere between the two stories is the truth."

One example of a story getting national attention is the cell phone video that captured the police officer using achoke holdd on Eric Gardner.

In another example, the lack of footage in the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson raised many questions about what really happened.

Incidents like these prompted the White House to request a spending package with $75 million dedicated to adding 50,000 body cameras to police.

"Having the cams definitely will help. It'll help the officers with training, it'll help them in dealing with that situation," said Sgt. Vickers-Dews, "How they are going to deal with it, if it is a disciplinary issue that they're going to have to deal with."

Only time will tell how these candid cameras will impact the tension between the police and communities like that of New York and Ferguson.

TJC officials said that crime rates on campus have gone down since the implementation of body cameras, along with other safety measures. The New York police department's body camera pilot program is set to start tomorrow.

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