LaFayette City Council on Tuesday, Sept. 19, voted to purchase 15 body cameras for police. The cameras will be purchased from Watch Guard for $20,590.
The motion to purchase the body cameras passed 4-0. Mayor Andy Arnold called it a "great purchase."
Councilman Beacher Garmany asked if the purchase is a budgeted item. City Manager David Hamilton said it is not, explaining that the money comes from the city's technology budget. He said the money was in a line-item in the account that was technically for equipment set at $32,000. ¬¬
Chief Bengie Clift said he would order the cameras Wednesday, Sept. 30. They are expected to arrive within four weeks, the chief said.
The city's 2018 budget, which begins Oct. 1, is set at nearly $25.7 million.
About seven years ago, then police chief Tommy Freeman had officers fitted with body cameras. But they weren't very durable and didn't last very long in the field.
The latest video recording systems, like Watch Guard (watchguardvideo.com), allow multiple angles to be recorded from both the front and rear of the patrol vehicle.
The body cameras link up to the hard drive in the vehicle and all the data is stored; so if the body camera is damaged, the footage is backed up.
Walker County does not face the extent of criminal violence that neighboring Chattanooga does, Capt. Stacey Meeks said in December 2016. (Meeks has since been promoted to director of city's fire services and emergency management.) In Walker, there are a lot of calls for DUIs, drugs, and domestic-related incidents, he said. But body cameras would still be beneficial here, he said.
Some people involved in these relatively small incidents will dispute officer findings, so having the video on the officer not only protects the officer and the civilian, but it also ensures a fair and balanced response from law enforcement, he said.
"We have been using cameras for a long time in our vehicles and that is something we started 20 years ago and that has helped out a lot," Meeks said.
When an officer's conduct was called into question during a traffic stop, those cameras were there to prove otherwise at times, he said.
Body microphones are already on the officers, so the audio is already being recorded and documented.