Officers to get body cameras

Published 9:49 am Monday, August 31, 2015

Vicksburg police are a step closer to keeping a better eye on officers and suspects in the field after purchasing a body-worn camera for every officer in the department, Police Chief Walter Armstrong told members of Lions Club last week.

In late July, the city purchased 81 body cameras at a cost of $62,980, according to an invoice reviewed by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

“I have them in my office in boxes. We have not issued those cameras as of yet, but those cameras are going to help us tremendously,” Armstrong said.

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The department is working on a comprehensive policy for use of the cameras before training officers and issuing the recording devices.

“I want to make sure that we have a real good policy in place. That’s what we’re working on right now,” Armstrong said. “As soon as we finish with this policy we will call each officer in and have a training session and issue the cameras.”

Warren County deputies began wearing the cameras in May 2014, Sheriff Martin Pace said.

Armstrong announced in January that he wanted to purchase the cameras following months of national debate about the uses of such recording devices. Having the cameras will increase transparency, improve the behavior of officers and suspects and improve the quality of evidence used in prosecution, Armstrong said.

“We will be able to reduce the number of complaints and lawsuits and help expedite a resolution to those complaints and lawsuits,” Armstrong said.

Funds to pay for the cameras came out of a $160,000 account of money from drug forfeitures. The funds can only be used for “police supplies and equipment,” he said.

Though VPD has capacity for 81 officers and ordered that many cameras, the department is down to 66 people, Armstrong said. Growth is on the way.

“In order that we build a department of men and women who are dedicated to serving the citizen’s of Vicksburg, we have to be very thorough with our application process,” Armstrong said. “We have four individuals who I selected out of 16 applicants who will be going to the Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers Training Academy next month.”