Minden police officers are now wearing video cameras in addition to badges, uniforms and gun belts.
Police Chief Steve Cropper says he has enough cameras for every shift and every officer, plus two for the detectives unit when they must serve a warrant.
“We started issuing them Friday (July 31), and we’ve continued issuing this week,” he said.
So far, he says they’ve not had any incidents requiring the use of the cameras, but he feels better knowing his officers and the community will be safer with them in use.
“It protects the officers and it also protects the citizens,” he said. “I do take a lot of complaints on traffic stops and the cameras ,most of the time, prove the officer did not do what they had been accused of doing. The officers are excited about it, and I’m excited about it, because it’s just another tool to protect them and the citizens.”
Stories can change and stories can be misconstrued, he said.
“Untruths can be told and that camera tells us what really happened,” he said. “It’s a good tool for us.”
MBL Bank President Jack Byrd conducted a fundraiser at the beginning of this year for the department and the Webster Parish Sheriff’s Office to purchase the cameras. In May, Byrd said around Christmas, he talked to both the chief and Sheriff Gary Sexton and asked them if they had the funds in their budgets to purchase these cameras. They both said no. That’s when he says he got the idea to begin raising money for them.
“I thought it would be a good idea to see what we could do to support our law enforcement,” he said. “If you have the video, you could use that video in training classes on what to do and what not to do in situations.”
Cropper says the software that comes with the cameras will not allow the deletion of the videos downloaded from the body cams. Last week, IT support installed the software and got the cameras up and running.
The Minden Police Department now has 27 cameras.
Sexton says he has not purchased cameras yet but plans to in the spring. He says with the October election so close, there is a window around that time period that will not allow him to spend over a certain amount from his budget.
“We’re under a time frame where prior to six months out and six months after an election that a sheriff cannot raise his budget over 15 percent of his normal operating costs,” he said. “We’re in that time period where we’re six months into an election, so I have to watch my budget. I don’t know at this time if I can spend that money and still be complying with the law if I go over 15 percent of equipment costs.”
He’s looking into whether he can purchase the cameras now, but at this time, he’s not going to spend the money until he is absolutely sure.
“We are definitely going to body cameras,” he said. “If I’m not in violation of the ethics laws, more than likely, our deputies will be wearing body cameras before cold weather.”
He, like Cropper, believes the cameras will make a difference for his deputies and the citizens.
“We (he and the sheriff’s association) feel like law enforcement is under review across this country right now,” he said. “It comes down to the issue that the general public, we feel like they will be more satisfied, with not only police officers, but deputy sheriffs wearing body cameras. It makes the officer aware that he’s being videotaped. It may make him clean up some of his remarks. The biggest thing is to be able to go back and reveal what the truth is. That’s the ultimate goal, is the truth.”