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Police get new crime-fighting weapon

Jonesborough police will soon be sporting a new weapon in law enforcement – tiny cameras worn as a part of each officer’s uniform to record interactions with the public.
“We’re going to use them to augment our existing audio, visual and still imaging for the line officer,” said Jonesborough Police Chief Matt Hawkins. “These cameras are essentially recording from the officer’s eyes.”
Currently, the department has video and audio capabilities hooked up in each officer’s patrol car. However, when an officer gets out of his or her vehicle to address any number of situations, the recording devices stay in the car.
“It’s going to be very helpful when you are out on a domestic (violence call) or something like that and you have to leave your vehicle where all the audio and visual equipment is to go inside someone’s house,” said Jonesborough Police Officer Stephanie Hicks. “It’s simple to use, too. I’m excited about them.”
In fact, Hawkins said the cameras will provide an additional tool to not only document evidence of a criminal nature, but also to substantiate or refute any complaints filed against an officer.
“An internal investigation into an officer complaint takes days or weeks typically. Now, we should be able to complete one within minutes,” Hawkins said. “For a small department like ours, that is really important. Our agency has one investigator and he can either be investigating crime cases or complaints against officers.”
Video from the cameras can be downloaded to a computer then burned to a disc to be placed alongside the paperwork associated with any particular case. Some of the recordings may also be used by the department as training videos and will be utilized heavily by the town’s two bike patrol officers.
All recordings will be kept for a minimum of 90 days, said Hawkins, who is working with town officials to rewrite the department’s current audio/visual policy to incorporate the personal cameras.
The department bought 17 cameras to outfit each of its officers. Each camera cost $52. The purchase was funded by the town’s Litigation Tax funds.
Hawkins hopes to have his officers using the cameras in the next couple of weeks.