Clanton PD to get digital cameras for patrol cars

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 25, 2009

If you are stopped for violating a traffic law by a Clanton police officer, smile — you might be on camera.

At its last meeting Clanton’s City Council approved the purchase of digital cameras to replace older cameras that have stopped operating in three patrol cars. Police Chief Brian Stilwell said the older cameras used in most of the patrol cars are phasing out but parts to repair them hopefully will be available in another two years.

“The digital camera runs continuously after it is turned on,” Stilwell said, explaining that the non-digital cameras begin recording only when a policeman turns on the police car’s flashing lights.

The digital cameras will record up to 28 hours before they need to be downloaded, according to Stilwell.

The cameras in police cars serve three main purposes. “The primary purpose of the camera is the collection of evidence,” Stilwell said. The camera records the actions of police officers and others as the officers perform their duties. The data can easily be reviewed for evidence purposes.

A second purpose is to record what happens if police officers are injured. “Nineteen percent of all injuries that occur to officers on the job occur during traffic stops,” the chief said. “Cameras provide valuable evidence for investigations of such injuries,” he said.

The cameras also provide evidence in cases where the city could be considered liable for actions of its police officers: “Take, for instance, if a police car goes through a traffic light on an emergency run,” Stilwell said, “the camera can provide evidence that the proper flashing lights were on when he went through the intersection.”

Stilwell said Clanton Police Department is not alone in the use of cameras in cars in the county. He said the City of Jemison currently operates cameras, and he understood the county sheriff’s department was starting to put them in their patrol cars also.