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The Juneau Police Department is testing video cameras in four of its patrol vehicles with the intention of having the future capability of using video footage as evidence in court.
Capt. Jerry Nankervis said having video recordings from the vantage point of the patrol cars could be invaluable in securing convictions.
"It will definitely help that," he said. "Now you might not be only relying on the officers description of what was happening. Now you have (video) to show the judge and jury."
JPD has six more video cameras waiting to be installed in new patrol vehicles the department has ordered, Nankervis said.
On the consent agenda at tonight's regular Assembly meeting an ordinance is being introduced to appropriate to the city manager $38,725 for the acquisition of additional in-car video equipment. The partial funding for the equipment is from the State of Alaska Department of Trans-portation and Public Facilities. The city would be required to match $9,681 of the grant.
City Manager Rod Swope has recommended the Assembly introduce the ordinance and set it for public hearing at the regular Assembly meeting on Sept. 11.
"The goal is to have everybody out there who is doing enforcement to have recording capability," Nankervis said.
The department acquired the first 10 sets of recording equipment shortly after the New Year but have not had them fully operational because of some technical difficulties. Nankervis said they have problem-solved the issues and he expects some of the patrol vehicles will begin documenting traffic stops for potential evidence in the next couple of months.
"The reason it's taken so long to get them in place is you can't just throw them in the cars and ask the officers to use them until you have a policy in place," he said.
Having video capability in each of the patrol vehicles will have a multitude of benefits for officers and will overall make the streets of Juneau safer, he said. The video footage can observe traffic stops objectively, increase officer safety and can be used for training.
Nankervis said the officers will be able to watch the footage of a traffic stop and see what they did right and what they could improve upon.
"As an officer you're always trying to make sure you conduct traffic stops in the safest way," he said.
Nankervis said the footage could be used to exonerate officers who are falsely accused of inappropriate conduct.
"Overwhelmingly those videos show that the officer hasn't done anything wrong," he said.
The video footage can be initiated in three ways. The video automatically turns on when the lights and siren are activated, it can be initiated manually in the vehicle, or by a remote control kept on an officer's person.
Nankervis said it is still too early in the program to tell how effective the video footage will be for the officers. He said he believes it will ultimately help keep officers safe and will help with drunken driving convictions.
"In the long-run I think it will show that it's beneficial to have these," Nankervis said.
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