"These (cruisers) are rolling offices, and they are equipped with everything an officer needs to do their job during any kind of situation," Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton told The Brazil Times while technicians at Specialty Vehicle Solutions, Inc., Clay City, installed a camera in an off-duty deputy's cruiser Friday morning.
With the county budget stretched to its limits, Heaton said the department was able to purchase the new equipment at no cost to local citizens. Although the Clay County Council will have to transfer the funds to pay for the new equipment, Heaton wants to assure people that it is not coming out of taxpayers' pockets.
"We were able to use fees collected from issuing accident reports, sheriff's sales and funding returned to the department through drug seizures," Heaton said. "This is a project I've wanted to do for several years, and I'm glad the department was finally able to do it without placing the burden on our citizens."
At an approximate total cost of $4,000, the department purchased eight digital cameras. Heaton said the two K-9 units and six patrol cruisers were outfitted first with the cameras, which should be installed before July 3. More cameras will be purchased and installed at a later date for the other department vehicles.
The cameras have high-resolution recording that works either manually or automatically when lights and sirens are turned on, a GPS tracking system and a 60-second "pre-event" loop recording feature that will allow for the events leading up to an officer activating the system to be recorded as well.
The department tested five different in-dash camera systems before selecting one. Heaton said the Indiana State Police is currently using the same cameras in some of their cruisers.
"We wanted to get the best system we could for the money we had to spend," he said. "The cameras are under a manufacturer's warranty and we have the future capability of upgrading the system to allow for wireless capabilities."
Judicial and legal officials realize the advantages of video recordings for any contact between law enforcement officers, citizens and criminals. Typical benefits from using in-dash cameras are increased conviction rates and less time spent in litigation.
Heaton said the cameras have the potential of helping create greater public trust, which means it will be easier for officers to do their jobs.
"We've had complaints and allegations before about officers' behavior, all departments do, but the installation of these cameras protects everyone," Heaton said. "The officers at the department are excited about the installation of these cameras. They understand they're there to protect the public and also to protect officers against false allegations. These cameras will show how a crime happens and allow a jury to see and hear what the officers see and hear."