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Clanton PD adding 4 new cameras, computers

The continuation of a rural development grant will allow the Clanton Police Department to equip four patrol cars with in-car digital video recorders and computers.

The $25,000 grant will bring the department closer to compliance with E-Citation and E-Crash, the state’s effort to bring crime reporting into the 21st century using a paperless medium.

When the new equipment is installed, 12 of the department’s 30-car fleet will boast the technology. Twenty of the cars are used in regular patrols, said Clanton Police Chief Brian Stilwell.

This is the second year Clanton has received the grant, which does not require a match from the city. The grant is funneled through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

“We’re thrilled that the state is willing to help some of the agencies because this is an expensive project,” Stilwell said.

The cameras continually store two minutes of video footage prior to activation. This extra footage could be used as critical evidence in an investigation. For example, if an officer’s patrol car is struck by another vehicle at a traffic signal, the camera could capture whether the light was green or red.

The cameras are activated in five different ways — shock censor, speed, activation of lights, activation of siren, or voice command. The feature is intended to provide protection for the agency, the individual officer, the evidence and the public, Stilwell said.

“If we had a bad officer, it would protect the public from him,” he said.

In addition, GPS tracking will pinpoint the location of cars at all times. The ultimate goal is to link the cameras to mobile computers so that footage can be viewed live from the police station, Stilwell said.

Last but not least, in regard to E-Citation and E-Crash, the computers will make traffic reporting paperless and instantaneous. For example, during a routine traffic stop, a simple swipe of an individual’s driver’s license would automatically alert the officer of any outstanding warrants.

Rep. Jimmy Martin explains further: “What this means is they’re no longer doing tickets by hand. They’re doing like Public Safety and swiping the driver’s licenses, and [the computer] issues the citation and also sends the records of the citation and charges to the Department of Public Safety.”

Stilwell thanked Martin for his assistance and said representatives at all levels had been helpful. Without the grant, he said, the department would have to hire two clerks just to keep up with data entry.

“Our return on investment with this project would be in five years, just in employees,” he said.