Mount Olive Police Department adds cameras
By John Joyce
Published in News on September 2, 2014 1:46 PM
Mount Olive Police Capt. Tommy Brown, left, and Patrolman Wes Cannon look over one of the new body video cameras purchased by the department for use by its officers in the field. The camera records interactions between officers and people they meet.
MOUNT OLIVE -- Town officials will soon be able to be front and center whenever a police officer is making an arrest or answering a call.
In addition to the 11 street-mounted cameras already in place around town -- and the 16 more town officials plan to deploy over the next three years -- Mount Olive will soon require its police officers to wear body-mounted video cameras.
The town has bought 15 Body Cam brand personal cameras at $290 each for a total cost of $4,350. Police Chief Brian Rhodes said the cameras will help with crime scene investigations, evidence collection and with defusing potential conflicts between officers and residents.
"They'll help de-escalate situations where people are irate," Rhodes said.
He said, like any police department, his office has received complaints from residents describing incidents of rude officers, but nothing physical or abusive.
"The cameras will help on complaints to either exonerate an officer or prove when the officer has done something wrong," Rhodes said.
Rhodes is putting together a department policy on use of the cameras, which will include downloading the video to external hard drives for safekeeping. That will be done by supervisors so not everybody will have access to the video, he said.
Mount Olive Town Manager Charles Brown has been behind the idea since it was first suggested more than a year ago.
"We've been thinking about it for a while now and, due to recent events, we've decided to go ahead and get them out," Brown said.
Brown said that by "recent events," he meant Ferguson, Mo., where a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, sparking riots.
Mount Olive officials are hoping the cameras will make police officers and the citizens with whom they interact more conscious of their conduct.
Brown said the only people who should fear the cameras are bad officers and criminals.
"Anytime officers engage an individual, these cameras will be activated. That is to protect the officers and the public," Brown said.
Brown said idea of the officers wearing cameras had been floating around a while, but what pushed him to go ahead with the idea is the fact the Ferguson police had similar cameras at their disposal, but did not use them.
The cameras are smaller than a cell phone and are waterproof, he said. They also have night vision capability, and will record both audio input and visual imaging.
It has been more than a year since Mount Olive installed the first seven of what will eventually be 27 mounted cameras throughout the city.
The first cameras were asked for and paid for by some of the local businesses and by the University of Mount Olive. The rest have been budgeted using town funds.
"When our four most recent cameras were deployed, they were in place less than an hour and we had three arrests for people using drugs right in front of the cameras," Brown said.
The Wayne County Sheriff's Office has not purchased any similar cameras for deputies on patrol, but some have been allowed to purchase cameras on their own and use them, Maj. Tom Effler said.
The Sheriff's Office also uses cameras in the course of undercover operations, including those conducted by the Goldsboro/Wayne County Interagency Drug Task Force.