HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The Horry County Police Department says they have deployed about 175 body cameras to officers.
The cameras arrived at the beginning of September and for the past three weeks, Horry County Police spokesman, Lt. Raul Denis, said they have been training officers on how they can record and store data with the cameras.
"Our first responders, our guys in uniform, our patrol officers, our animal control officers, our SRO's, so everybody pretty much every officer in uniform will have a camera or already has," said Denis.
The county budgeted to have the cameras for officers and they could make the difference when it comes to finding out exactly what happened during a crime.
"It will sit here in the middle of their uniform and it will record sound," explains Denis. "It constantly records when it is turned on and it actually will record previous to the actual activation."
Denis said if an officer gets to a scene and forgets to hit the record button, the camera will actually record video 30 seconds prior to the button being pushed, but there would not be any sound for the 30 seconds.
"Every call, any kind of back-up situation, any kind of prisoner transportation, any kind of police action that is taken it must be recorded," said Lt. Denis.
Denis said the cameras cost about $400 each; they can record up to 9 hours of video, both sound and video, for an officer working if an officer works a 12-hour shift.
Denis said, " As an initiating officer or even as a back-up officer you are required to have your camera and be recording."
The recorded video is monitored through an officer's smart phone app. At the end of a shift the camera is docked to recharge and the video is automatically downloaded to the department's cloud storage.
"Once it is recorded and kept in the cloud environment it will be kept there forever." Denis said when video is needed as evidence they will record the video to DVD and submit as evidence for that case. This is to ensure they have a hard copy.
But, Denis said just because officers will be recording video, not everyone will have access to view under state law and the department's policy.
He explains, "Right now the way the law is written and the way that our policy is written none of these recordings will be made available to the public or the press."
But the law allows particular people to have access to the video. "The victim, the defendant or the attorneys representing the defendant, of course if it involves a juvenile, the parent of the juvenile and the juvenile," said Denis.
Denis said that the new technology is something that the department will have to be accustomed to, but he feels it will allow the department to serve the public better and overall improve the safety of their officers.
"We wouldn't want to make our officers second guess themselves after years of training just because they are wearing a body camera especially if it is going to result in them being hurt or worse," he said.
Denis said the cameras will allow them to monitor how people are performing. They will let the department determine their training needs and liabilities. He says most of all it will help the officers maintain a high professional standard.
"The cameras themselves have never actually hurt us they have actually helped us to clear up complaints and clear up
questions and issues. The recordings in my experience have always been a positive thing," said Denis.