Paradise police take next step in body cam technology

The Paradise Police Department was one of the first in Butte County to get body cameras for their officers. Soon enough, Paradise Police officers will be outfitted with some of the latest in bodycam technology.

Last month the Paradise Town Council approved a deal to buy a $ 245,875 body-worn camera / vehicle camera system from a business called Bodyworn by Utility Associates.

The purchase would upgrade the police department system that has been in place since 2008. But it isn’t just the purchase of a new body camera system that’s essential, as body cams are part of most police departments in the country.

For us, it’s the improvements in the system that this provides officers, one of which is the aspect of having the camera inside the uniform instead of on the outside. That limits the possibility of it being knocked off.

But it’s the sensory aspect of this new system that we think is beneficial to both police officers and the public. The new system alerts fellow officers, dispatchers and administrators when an officer is down on his back and where the officer is. That could be due to a health issue or if the officer is in a fight for his life. The fact that the system automatically sends a message means an officer doesn’t have to radio for help, and that’s a good development in technology.

This system also doesn’t need an officer to turn it on for it to work – it automatically kicks on once an officer has reached the proximity of the scene to which they are being dispatched.

But this system also works once an officer begins to run or when the officer pulls his weapon from the holster. In both of those instances, not only would the camera immediately kick on, but fellow officers would be immediately notified that an officer is either in pursuit of someone or has pulled their weapon.

This system also immediately collects and transfers the data from the camera, which will also save time. Fellow officers won’t have to set up the docking system to download any video evidence.

This system also has a live stream element so that the chief or anyone the chief chooses can watch the police interactions live from anywhere there is Internet access or cellular. And every officer on the scene will know that someone is watching remotely.

None of the videos can be deleted unless it is part of the retention schedule. In Paradise that retention schedule is two years.

When Paradise residents think of body cams, it’s hard not to remember the Patrick Feaster shooting in 2015 of an unarmed man following a DUI crash that killed a young Paradise woman, Darien Ehorn, 23.

In that case, as the driver attempted to climb out of the car, Feaster unholstered his weapon and pointed it at 26-year-old Andrew Thomas, and shot him. Thomas died several weeks later at Enloe Medical Center and Feaster, who claimed the shooting was accidental, was later convicted of manslaughter.

At the scene, despite Thomas saying that Feaster had shot him, the officer did not inform his superior that he had possibly fired a shot – until he made plans to head back to where Thomas was coming from to see if he had been shot there.

With this new system his superior would have known Feaster had pulled his weapon before arriving on scene.

The transparency that body cams provide not only protects the officers from false reports of police abuse, but they can also deter such acts by police officers.

But this system not only does that, it also gets the maximum amount of information to officers before they get to the scene, whether it’s an officer safety issue or that an officer pulled his weapon or is on a foot pursuit where it can be difficult to understand what the officer is saying. All of that can be transmitted without the officer having to say anything before backup arrives.

It’s a good move, one we hope becomes commonplace with all police departments.

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