Madison Co. deputies will soon have body cameras based on the success of their use in Athens. (Source: WAFF file)
ATHENS, AL (WAFF) -
Athens Police Lieutenant Charles Clem uses an often-used phrase to describe his police force's body cameras.
"The camera doesn't lie," Clem said as he demonstrated the small, yet powerful device pinned to his uniform.
Each of the Athens Police Department's 44 body cameras can record up to 10 hours of video and audio. They are the same type Madison Co. deputies will soon be wearing, after the county commission approved a request to outfit the department with body cameras.
"It's a point-of-view camera, so they hear and see exactly what I see," explained Lt. Clem. "It takes you exactly where the officer is."
Athens officers have noticed a marked change since they began wearing and operating the cameras last fall - both in performance within the department and behavior of the people they meet on day-to-day calls.
Most Athens police cars are equipped with dashboard cameras, but with the addition of body cameras, the filming doesn't stop when the car does. Footage from the cameras can be used in education, training and development. They, like dash-cam video, can also be used as evidence in court.
Police Chief Floyd Johnson said complaints against officers have also gone down since they adopted the use of body cameras.
"You would have a person complaining, you would have an officer's statement," Chief Johnson said. "You would have to figure out exactly what did happen."
At the end of an officer's shift, the camera footage is uploaded, where it can be reviewed by a supervisor.
The Madison County Sheriff's Department's cameras are expected to cost an estimated $131,000. It will be paid for with a combination of Department of Justice grants and the sheriff's department's discretionary funds.