Police body cameras are watching Fairbanks citizens

Police body cameras are watching Fairbanks citizens
April 5, 2013 Fernanda Chamorro

By Fernanda Chamorro and Fred Monrean

April 4, 2013

This is a Veho MUVI micro DV camcorder, which is being worn on police suits to record suspects as evidence. March 28, 2013. Fernanda Chamorro, Extreme Alaska

This is a Veho MUVI micro DV camcorder, which is being worn on police suits to record suspects as evidence. March 28, 2013. Fernanda Chamorro, Extreme Alaska

On the morning of August 30, 2011, a 68-year-old woman named Yaki Kim struck 11-year-old Jamison Thrun with her SUV as he was walking to University Park Elementary School and killed him. UAF Police Department Investigator Steve Goetz was the first officer to arrive on scene and the camera on his person captured the traumatic event as people standing by attempted to save the boy with CPR. He also recorded his contact with the woman who struck the child and interviews with eyewitnesses. All of this footage was later used in court as evidence and the woman was sentenced to ten years in prison, with 6.5 suspended.

Fairbanks officers can now watch one’s every move with miniature cameras that they wear on their suit straps. Adopting body-mounted cameras is becoming a popular movement in police departments throughout the nation, according to the Washington Post. The devices have reached Fairbanks as police in town are now carrying them on the front of their vests. The Veho MUVI micro DV camcorder is only 5.5 cm long and police have begun using them in the past couple of months. Aside from the in-car cameras that come on automatically during traffic stops, the MUVI cameras are set to record by the officers prior to contacting any suspects.

Goetz described a three-month long case that occurred last year in which a series of thefts had taken place. Officers contacted the suspects, but they did not want to talk. Still photos taken from the MUVI video of the encounters were compared to the surveillance footage of the crimes. Police found a match between the suspects and the footage. “All three were charged with multiple accounts of theft, it turned out they were tied in with some trooper cases involving vehicle break in and stolen credit cards,” Goetz recalled. “Two pled out, one has a warrant out for his arrest.”

The cameras are used for the protection of both the public and the police. “That way you can kind of make a true judgment,” said Lieutenant Steve Barth, the supervisor and evidence controller at UAFPD. “I’m not there at the scene so I don’t know what happened between the officer and this individual, but the camera will tell it all.” Whether it is the individual or the officer who is being disrespectful, police or attorneys would then have proof of what truly happened. Barth mentioned how police sometimes have to report to burglar alarms and if there happens to be an incident where the officer is shot, the footage captured could help catch the suspect(s). He also mentioned that in an incident where a person accuses an officer of being rude or mistreating them, evidence is available for or against what they are stating.

Police have eight gig cards than can last around two hours. The video is considered evidence so it is downloaded onto the computer when officers return to the department, which can then be burned to a disc for evidential reasons. The discs are logged as evidence for cases up to two months.

This is one of the older cameras that police still wear on their suits. March 28, 2013. Fernanda Chamorro, Extreme Alaska

This is one of the older cameras that police still wear on their suits. March 28, 2013. Fernanda Chamorro, Extreme Alaska

The older cameras they have used for about four years are bigger and they are more expensive. The new, smaller MUVI cameras are only $80 and are being used by departments in California. The older cameras were $800. Some police are still using the older ones and will change to the newer versions once the old ones stop functioning. Aside from the price, the newer cameras can download files on each of the officers’ computers rather than only on one computer system that controls all of the old cameras.

As far as complaints go, Goetz stated he is not aware of any about the use of the cameras. However, police do get complaints when the cameras are not recording. “The district attorney might ask why there is no video and it is always a technical thing,” said Goetz. “If the cameras are down, we get only audio.”

The on-body cameras have been the last word in many cases as they show proof that would not be available in any other way. As for victims like Jamison, the footage may mean justice.

“It’s basically a recording device that you can play back and see everything that transpired at that point,” said Barth.

To read the full article on the Jamison case, visit the Newsminer.com.

Below is a video of how the newer MUVI camera works:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_fjCPC7q7g

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