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The Taylor Police Department will soon be fully equipped with body and in-vehicle cameras, along with Tasers, all in an effort to fulfill the expectations of the public, add transparency to law enforcement, reduce lawsuits, and reinforce proper demeanor for officers, while underscoring accountability.
The City of Taylor, through a unanimous vote of City Council on December 18, agreed to approve the purchase of 70 body cameras, 30 in-vehicle cameras and 40 Tasers (electrical weapons) from Axon. The three-component system is a five-year contract for a total cost of $766,700, funded through the Police Operating Lease Account.
“This is all about good government,” Mayor Rick Sollars said. “This is a good system.”
SEE HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS (VIDEO)
Police Chief John Blair said that the body cameras aid law enforcement through accountability and transparency, underlining that the new system offers a “two-way street” for both the officers and the public. “Both officers and the public tend to behave better when officers are wearing body cameras,” he noted. “Complaints about use-of-force decline significantly when officers have cameras.”
Using body cameras, the California city of Railto saw a 90 percent reduction in complaints and a 50 percent reduction in use-of-force complaints. Mesa, Arizona, saw a 40 percent reduction in complaints and a 75 percent reduction in use-of-force complaints. Phoenix recorded a 62 percent reduction in complaints. In addition, when officers advise residents that they are being recorded, it serves as a deterrent to conflict escalation, and officers wearing body cameras have proven to be more active. Complaints, when they do occur, are resolved much quicker.
Statistics show that 84 percent of subjects involved in police actions surrender when confronted with a Taser. Compare that with the fact that 78 percent of people are injured when law enforcement officials have to use their baton. In addition, video evidence increases guilty pleas by 20 percent.
The “all-inclusive” feature of the Axon package offers hidden value, both monetarily and otherwise. Officers end up spending more time doing their jobs, and less time writing reports, because the Axon network system creates digitized reporting. The automated system prevents officers from spending up to two-thirds of their shift time writing reports. Many times, the “report” will be filed and viewed by the shift supervisor before the officer returns to their vehicle at the site of an incident. That fact also means that the information is published out to other officers much quicker, enhancing the possibility of a favorable outcome in the case.
“One of the best parts of the three-component system we selected was the all-inclusive feature,” Chief Blair noted. “All training, installation, repairs and upgrades are included in the five-year lease package. When it comes to the three-part system (in-car and body worn cameras as well as the conducted electrical weapons or Tasers), Axon was the only company which manufacturers all three components, so we don't have to worry about compatibility issues.
“Storage is cloud-based and is included in our package. There are no hidden costs. If the department decides to add additional cameras or Tasers, then there would be additional cost.”
The decision to purchase body cameras was made when Chief Blair was appointed interim chief over a year ago. The department researched various vendors and talked with police departments around the country. Axon has cutting edge technology and is taking over a large share of the market in in-car and body cameras. “We believe body cameras are necessary to help re-establish the trust with the community we serve,” Chief Blair said.
The purchase fits with the 21st Century model of professional policing, which promotes transparency, use of technology and officer training. The chief called those issues of “paramount importance” to the department.
“Our belief is holding everyone accountable for their actions,” he said. “This is a two-way street.”