By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
City buys enhanced body camera program for police
Taser camera
Ceres police officers will be wearing shoulder mounted body cameras produced by Taser International. The camera has better benefits than the ones currently used. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

In a move to come up with better video of officers' interactions with the public, the Ceres City Council approved a $287,523 for a five-year Officer Safety Plan contract with Taser International Inc., at its meeting last week.

The contract includes body worn cameras, electronic control devices, Axon Signal, RMS Integrations and unlimited cloud storage.

More and more, law enforcement agencies are equipping officers with cameras as a way of documenting what transpires between officers and the public in case of complaints or reviewing police shootings. The video can be used to help prosecute suspects as well as show investigators what transpires during officer involved shootings.

About a year ago the Ceres traffic patrol officers felt cameras would be good in case their conduct was ever called into question. Funded by grant monies, the Ceres Police Department has been using VieVu body worn cameras, supported by an in-house data server. The existing program has major shortcomings, however. Ceres Police Chief Brent Smith said the camera produces a field of view that isn't wide enough and fails to produce a good picture in low-light conditions. The data also take a long time to download, using up Records and IT staff time.

The system offered by Taser provides unlimited cloud based storage, offers good images in low-light conditions and has a wider field of view. Because the camera is positioned on the shoulder and not on the chest, the picture the action in front of the officer is less obstructed view. Chief Smith said the body worn camera video of the January shooting of Albert Thompson at an El Camino Avenue apartment complex was not of much use because hand-held weapons blocked the view and because of poor video quality due to dark conditions during the 9:48 p.m. shooting.

Another benefit of the new system is that body-worn cameras can come on automatically under certain circumstances.

"For example, if I come into an area where other officers' cameras are on, it will automatically turn mine on," said Chief Smith. "Or I can set it up to where if I have my code three lights on it'll turn it on."

Another feature is a 30-second buffering feature to capture images and audio before the camera is turned on.

"That's important sometimes as well because an officer can get involved in something and figures by the time he turns it on, it automatically will start 30 seconds ago. It's recording like that all the time."

Smith said the District Attorney's office can get the video faster for cases since it's retrievable over the internet.

"They already have the software program and it's been working very well for the city of Modesto. The district attorney likes that we have a body camera wearing group and hopefully all of the agencies in the county that have this can go to the same. It makes it easier for everyone."

The program costs $287,523, paid in four annual installments of $49,248.