South Pittsburg eyes new body cameras for police

South Pittsburg eyes new body cameras for police

January 14th, 2018 by Ryan Lewis in Local Regional News

SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — New police Chief Wayne Jordan has already identified some much-needed upgrades at the South Pittsburg Police Department.

Among those needs, new body and vehicle cameras top the list.

At the South Pittsburg City Commission's January meeting, City Administrator Gene Vess said officials discovered recently the police department has only two body cameras that work correctly.

"And we don't have any cameras in the vehicles," he said.

Officials contacted Digital Ally in Lenexa, Kan., which offers vehicle and body cameras that sync together.

Vess said one of the camera systems is ready to install, and Jordan has requested the board approve the purchase of five more systems.

The first year of a five-year contract with the company would cost $21,677 for six camera systems.

The city would have to pay $2,766 per year for the remainder of the contract.

Vess said the department has a $20,000 Governor's Highway Safety Office grant, and only about $400 of that money has been spent.

The remainder could be used to buy the equipment, leaving the city to fund about $2,300.

Vess said the grant money could be used to pay for the remaining contract years, if the town receives it each year.

"The grants are no guarantees," he said.

Officers who are using the current cameras have their own storage cards for the data.

"So, the officer can actually review that [footage], and he can erase anything he wants to at any time he wants to," Vess said. "This [new system] prevents any tampering with the equipment."

The camera system allows officers to automatically upload the data to a server that Digital Ally maintains.

Vess said the department also has some "issues" with computers the city is "going to have to deal with" soon.

South Pittsburg has eight officers, but Jordan said he wasn't planning to equip the police lieutenant or his own car with the camera systems because they each served more of an administrative role rather than day-to-day law enforcement.

"My thinking is that if we do it, we need to put it in every car and on everybody," Commissioner Ronnie Lancaster said. "I don't know how much more it would cost. We should do them all."

Jordan said he would contact the company and have a new price for the board to consider at its next meeting on Feb. 13.

A decision on the matter was tabled until then.

"If we're going to invest that much, we need to invest enough to do every car we've got and every officer we've got, so they would all be protected," Lancaster said.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.


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