22 squad cars to get video cameras

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 1, 2002

[08/1/02]Vicksburg police officers will be getting video cameras in 22 squad cars next month at a cost of about $3,253 per vehicle.

The dash-mounted cameras that will record through the front window of patrol vehicles are on order and are expected in about 30 days. Police Chief Tommy Moffett said the cost, totaling $71,566 including installation, is about average and well worth it.

“They’re good investigative tools as well as corrective tools,” Moffett said. “It has multiple usage.”

The hand-held cameras record on an 8mm video-cassette tape and start recording any time the vehicle’s emergency lights are activated. The units are weatherproof and can be removed from the vehicle to record crimes or wreck scenes, Moffett said.

In addition to recording traffic stops, the cameras will be used to evaluate the actions of police officers in the field and used for training, said Deputy Chief Richard O’Bannon.

“It’s kind of like having a supervisor in every car,” O’Bannon said.

The video cassettes are locked and can only be removed by a supervisor. The recordings can also be used as evidence in court, O’Bannon said.

Moffett said the department, which recently submitted a budget request of $5.9 million for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, will eventually have cameras and radar equipment in every patrol vehicle.

Out of the 51 marked patrol cars, 29 now have radar equipment and three others are already equipped with cameras.

“When you send a police officer out to do his job, you want to send him with all the tools of his trade,” Moffett said.

Vicksburg police are equipped with state-of-the-art trunked 800 megahertz digital radios purchased in 1996 for about $2 million. Officers also have laptop computers in about 10 cars.

The laptop system’s infrastructure, purchased about two years ago, cost about $100,000 and each computer cost about an additional $2,500.

The department’s budget request for next year is $137,000 more than the current year’s budget, but still below the $7.1 million budget in fiscal year 2000-2001. Separately, Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace is seeking a $1.15 million increase over this year’s budget of $3.7 million for the jail, youth detention and sheriff’s departments.