CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - The City of Conway is updating its police car cameras with a new digital system.
On November 3 it was announced that a grant was awarded to the Conway Police Department for $92,812 to replace 24 in-car VHS camera systems. Ten percent of that will be matched by city taxpayers, amounting to $8,437.
In-car camera systems are crucial for law enforcement these days. But not many people realize that when a Conway police car rolls up, it is recording on an archaic VHS tape that is never the best quality. So this digital upgrade is going to protect officers and protect you when they are responding to your emergencies.
The way the old system works right now, there is a camera and monitor in the front of the patrol car that will activate with the blue lights are turned on. But everything is recorded in the trunk of the car on a clunky VHS tape deck. This old system eats away time whenever an officer needs to review footage in the car. The video quality is grainy and has poor audio, making it tough to rely on.
The department knew they needed to upgrade the system, but it is very expensive. So they submitted for a 2014 Justice Assistant Grant Competitive Award back on January 6, 2014. The grant was approved by the SC Department of Public Safety and the US Justice Department. On November 3, Conway city council approved the purchase of 24 in-car digital systems.
These new cameras are going to help officers be more efficient in the field and back at the station. "They'll be able to pull up to the police station, and it'll download for us onto our server," says Lt. Selena Small, Conway Police Department. "So it'll help us with file maintenance. The officers aren't having to turn in tapes or keep track of the tapes. They pull up to a designated spot and it'll automatically download into one of our servers where any of us on the supervision staff can actually go to it and locate it as soon as possible. So we have accurate storage and we also have great accountability."
With the old VHS system, it would start recording when the blue lights were turned on or an officer activated the cameras. But there was always a chance something would glitch out. With the new system, the camera will still activate with the lights or when an officer hits a button on his or her belt. But Lt. Small says the new feature they're excited for is that the camera will actually pre-record 30 seconds before the officer activates it. So now, officers will never miss a thing. This will give 30 seconds of background information leading up to the stressful moment when that camera was turned on.
"Things may happen, and we hope some bad things may never happen," says Lt. Small. "But you've always got that camera you can go to that will give you another view point. You know when you get witness statements, officers, anybody's information. But you can also take that tap and corroborate what information you're getting. And we love it and we're so excited to get it."
The cameras have already been ordered. It will take two to three weeks for them to be delivered. Then it'll take some time to install them and train everyone before they hit the streets. But Lt. Small says she believes the digital systems should be in their hands by the time they move the department into the brand new public safety building, which she says should be sometime in November.
This is a big year for the Conway Police Department with new cameras and a new building. But they're already looking ahead to the future. Each year the police department comes up with their goals and objectives. Right now they're currently looking into some other ideas of what they want to strive for in the next few years. They're hoping to narrow down their list soon to provide better specifics. But Lt. Small says they are always looking to upgrade new technology when it comes to helping officer safety and accountability and when it comes to building better cases to keep the community safe.