Body cameras 'effective' tool to promote safety - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Body cameras 'effective' tool to promote safety

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A body camera strapped to an officer's chest could have potentially changed the outcome of the grand jury indictment we saw in Ferguson Missouri, that's why there's even more of a national push to get police to wear body cameras.

A body camera is exactly what it sounds like: police strap it on their chest and it records their interactions with citizens. There's no doubt people sit on both sides of this debate, but in Myrtle Beach where they are being used, police say they see success because it keeps both parties in check.

“They've helped us in numerous instances. Out on the streets where officers involved in a use of force or a citizen complaint,” said Myrtle Beach Police Capt. David Knipes. “We've been able to go back to these body cameras and show where the officer did nothing wrong.”

That's the same reason two state senators want to file a bill that, if passed, would make body cameras a requirement for all South Carolina officers.

State Senator Gerald Malloy told WMBF News, the best evidence is recorded. He feels it protects both the officers and the citizen, so nobody is charged wrongfully. He hopes filing a bill will get the discussion started and get our state ahead of the curve.

The cost of one camera is between $200 and upwards of $1,000. Senator Malloy thinks the cost of the cameras is far less than a life, or a lawsuit.

When asked who will foot the bill, Malloy said an option is for police to pull from their general funds, which local police say is a challenge.

President Barack Obama is asking congress for money to get 50,000 more officers to wear these devices.

Right now the Myrtle Beach Police Department has about 30 body cameras, Myrtle Beach Police Captain David Knipes says their department plans on getting one on every single officer, with 175 more on the way. The cost of those new cameras is $200,000.

WMBF News spoke to about five local law enforcement agencies and they all said, they see the benefit of body cameras and would like them added to the force, but the holdback is the cost.

Horry County, Conway and Surfside Police have all tested out the equipment, but their still searching for ways to cover the cost.

Lt. Hoffman with Surfside Beach Police says it's not just the expense of the camera, but the software and upkeep.

North Myrtle Beach Police, on the other hand, has 10 body cameras in use at their department and Chief Webster says they've been extremely helpful for the Alcohol Enforcement team. They actually use them going into bars and house parties. They also work well inside the jail if there are any incidents were officers have to use force.

North Myrtle Beach Police say they hope to have cameras on all officers by next summer. Myrtle Beach Police have the same goal with every certified officer getting a body camera next year.

“Luckily we've been able to find the funding either through budgets or grants to purchase this new equipment,” said Capt. Knipes. “We think its gonna be beneficial, not only to the police department but for the community as well to make us a more effective unit.”

This isn't the only new technology helping our officers keep you safe. The Skywatch tower the City of Myrtle Beach purchased is keeping extra eyes over events.

Capt. Knipes said they are always looking to add more technology, if money allows.

These additions help them to be more effective, save time, and be more proactive out on the streets.

Copyright 2014 WMBF News. All rights reserved.
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