GARLAND — Town officials and Chief Ronald Matthews are continuing to make improvements for its police department and are now considering body cameras.
During a Tuesday meeting, the Garland Board of Commissioners discussed the possibility of the department receiving bodycams in the near future. The devices are widely used by departments across the United States for evidence and accountability measures.
Matthews made a suggestion to test equipment before a major purchase, based of his previous experiences.
“I tested them for another department and we went through five units before they decided what was really working,” Matthews said.
The device captures up to 16 hours of footage on a mini-SD card. Recordings are later viewed on a computer and held for a certain period of time if a dispute occurs.
Matthews reported that bodycams are used by other law enforcement agencies for work involving K-9 and narcotics. The purpose involves evidence and liability. At the beginning of 2017, the Newton Grove Police Department approved a policy for officers to use body cameras. In 2015, the Clinton Police Department began using body cameras, following approval from the city council.
A study produced by the Police Foundation and published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology, shows that cameras may help de-escalate situations between officers and the public. The Rialto, Calif. Police Department conducted a year-long study showing that use-of-force by officers dropped by 59 percent. Complaints against officers also decreased by 87 percent as well. Bodycam footage has been widely discussed and debated regarding police and shootings and unarmed citizens.
Garland commissioners made a decision to table the bodycam decision so Matthews can conduct more research on suitable units. The commissioners and Matthews also discussed the purchase of video equipment for squad vehicles. Matthews mentioned the possibility of obtaining grant funding for the department.
Garland operated a station until June 30, 2008, but it came to an end because of financial woes. Later, law enforcement duties were turned over to the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office. In 2016, Garland ended a contract after the costs increased. This lead to commissioners making a decision to start one for the town.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.