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February 25, 2011 > Walls officers wear cameras

Walls officers wear cameras

By Henry Bailey, The Commercial Appeal
Submitted By AP Wire Service

WALLS, Miss. (AP), Feb 25 - During a recent DUI stop, Walls Police Chief Gary Boisseau got vital help from his ``second set of eyes.'' Wearable video saw things in the suspect's car that even the chief's experienced visual scan missed at first, and helped nail the case.

With the technology, officers in the tiny town in northwest DeSoto County have made a big leap in enforcing the law and invoking efficiency, says Boisseau.

``It's a silent witness, and it's been invaluable,'' he said.

If someone who saw something or is a suspect ``later backs off and says they didn't say something, well, this gets it all,'' he said. ``Video doesn't lie, so they can't deny what they said or did on camera.''

The devices, about the size of a disposable lighter, have been undergoing tests by the chief and his four part-time officers for a couple of months. Recently, after ordering more - at a mere $10 each, he said - the chief officially issued them.

They join the dashboard-mounted cameras already in use by the force. But an officer can't take a dash cam into a house or cluttered alley, and its microphone has a limited range.

The wearable cams, attached by an alligator clip to a shirt or jacket, go where the officer goes and see and hear everything - and everyone - the officer encounters. Innocuously, too.

``You have to really look to notice it,'' said Boisseau.

Boisseau said for once his force appears to be leading the posse in DeSoto County.

``We have dashboard cameras and cameras in the jail, but my officers don't have these (wearable cams),'' said Sheriff Bill Rasco. ``And I'm not aware of any other department that has them.''

In other areas, such devices have been gaining results and law enforcers' endorsements as an aid to documentation and prosecution.

Boisseau, who like other officers has seen ``cop toys'' come and go, thinks these won't end up in the drawer.

The versatile devices can be attached to a wall or tree for surveillance, rolling about two hours on a full battery charge, and their capture of the emotion and gritty reality of first-person accounts resonates with viewers.

``It's proving to be a valuable tool for us, especially in court,'' said Boisseau.

``I would encourage it,'' said Senior Justice Court Judge Ken Adams. ``You know the old saying, 'A picture is worth a thousand words.' As long as it's a clear video, it can bring fairness - to both sides.''

Walls' wearable video cams for police were paid for by the city out of a wireless communications fund.

While top-of-the-line types such as those made by Seattle-based VIEVU can cost as much as $899 each, those for cost-conscious Walls are ``Chinese imports'' that cost about $10 each, said Police Chief Gary Boisseau.

They were picked out over the Internet, he said. ``And as to cost, they're almost to the point of being disposable. So if an officer loses one, we won't be ready to pull his ears off.''

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Information from: The Commercial Appeal,
http://www.commercialappeal.com

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