Body cameras will reduce complaints, add accountability for city’s police force

Published 11:43 am Tuesday, September 1, 2015

It’s been 2,000 years since the Roman poet and satirist Juvenal first wrote down a question that has been burning in the hearts of men since the first governments were first formed.

“But who can watch the watchmen?” he famously wrote of the struggle of maintaining the accountability of those in power.

Two millennia later, the question remains more relevant than ever with the massive amount of speculation surrounding police and suspect activity around the country. While no one has found a full solution to this timeless question, local officials are making their best effort. Soon every Vicksburg police officer will be equipped with a body-worn camera, Police Chief Walter Armstrong said.

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“We will be able to reduce the number of complaints and lawsuits and help expedite a resolution to those complaints and lawsuits,” Armstrong told Vicksburg Lions Club last week.

Having the cameras will increase transparency, improve the behavior of officers and suspects and improve the quality of evidence used in prosecution, as Armstrong said.

Warren County Sheriff’s Department began using the cameras in May 2014, Sheriff Martin Pace said when Armstrong announced he wanted the cameras for all his officers.

Both have said the cameras allow greater transparency into the actions of law enforcement officers and suspects.
Such recording devices aren’t just the latest fad in police technology; they are becoming standard operating procedure. Video from such cameras can play a role in complaints and lawsuits, but they can also be helpful in court.

“It works both ways. It can prove guilt or that someone is not guilty,” District Attorney Ricky Smith said in January.

Vicksburg police paid $62,980 for the cameras, and we believe the clarity they will provide will be worth every penny. Of course, the cameras cost taxpayers nothing. The funding came a $160,000 account of money from drug forfeitures, Armstrong said.

Cameras alone might not be the ultimate answer to Juvenal’s eternal question, but it’s the next step in finding a solution.