The Hinesville Police Department hopes to get some high-tech tools to fight crime. The city applied last month to the Bureau of Justice Assistance for a $20,536 grant to buy five digital video mirrors and 13 wearable video cameras.
“Whether it is an individual camera or vehicle camera, it allows the officer to record the event, which can be used as evidence in a particular case,” Hinesville Police Chief George Stagmeier said. “We feel it will be helpful in carrying out our sworn duties. Hopefully the public will view this as a good thing.”
Stagmeier said video recordings help officers keep accurate records of incidents. He admitted vehicle-mounted cameras may not always be 100 percent successful because they usually are limited to the front of a vehicle. These cameras normally are used during traffic violations, most of which are misdemeanors, the chief said.
As for making recordings available to the public, Stagmeier said that if an investigation is ongoing, these records would not be open.
“It would be detrimental to the solvability of the case,” he said. “We are allowed to keep (the recording) until the case is over. Then (the public) would have a right to the audio or video or both.”
Stagmeier said some of his officers have worn wearable video cameras for about five years.
“You probably would not be able to tell what it is,” he said. “They are part of the microphones on the handheld radios officers carry. (Technology companies) make some as big as your thumb that you can place anywhere on your shirt; they clip on.”
The chief said the wearable cameras normally would not be used in someone’s home, unless in reference to a call for assistance at a residence or business.
He said as he understands the law, as long as one person knows a recording is being made, it is permitted.
Stagmeier said officers who have car cameras and personal video recorders tend to perform well and adhere closely to policy and procedures, and therefore both the citizens and the officers are protected.
“I think we have good, well-trained officers that want to do the right thing all the time,” he said. “We have and will continue to use those cameras on allegations of police misconduct.”
The chief said he has found that in most cases of citizen complaints against officers, a complaint is withdrawn once the complainant learns the incident was recorded.
Stagmeier said the department’s 89 officers once had an adequate number of video cameras for their vehicles. But over time “they became obsolete and created maintenance problems.”
The new video mirrors would replace police car rear-view mirrors and can record audio and video, according to the chief.
The mirrors provide views of the front and rear seats of the police car, according to Integrated Technology Systems’ website. The company sells the video mirror the police department wants to buy, Hinesville grant writer Michelle Lane confirmed.
Lane said the camera the department wants to buy is a pager-sized, self-contained video recorder that can record in low light for up to four hours at a time.