In 2017, the Elizabeth police department embarked on a year-long trial of the Axon Body Camera. The program is part of Axon’s National Field Trial, which equips police departments with body cameras …
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In 2017, the Elizabeth police department embarked on a year-long trial of the Axon Body Camera. The program is part of Axon’s National Field Trial, which equips police departments with body cameras and unlimited cloud storage at no cost. According to Elizabeth Police Chief Stephen Hasler, the trial was a success, and he asked the Elizabeth Board of Trustees to approve the purchase of the system, which the board did on Oct. 9.
“After the year-long trial, the results have been extremely positive,” Hasler wrote in a letter to the board. “We fully tested their product and the ability for it to suit our requirements and the requirements of the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.”
The approved request was for a one-time start-up cost of $9,100 to purchase the 10 body cameras. The only annual cost after the initial purchase will be the cost of cloud storage, which retains videos from the body worn cameras, and which will be paid out of the police department budget. Officers are not able to delete any videos, and footage will be used to support both officers and community concerns.
“The body worn Axon cameras benefit the Town of Elizabeth Police Department as they create a greater degree of accountability, transparency, and safety for both our officers and the public and can also be used as part of evidence preparation,” said Elizabeth Mayor Megan Vasquez.
The use of body-worn cameras has become popular within police departments, and deliver a level of transparency of law enforcement agencies that the public has asked for, according to Elizabeth Police Cmdr. Melvin Berghahn.
“Transparency supports the public, which is really one of the main concerns to law enforcement today,” said Berghahn. “It helps show our work to the public, and how we operate.”
Berghahn said the videos captured by the cameras will help support both officers and community members who might have a dispute about what happened when an officer responded to a call.
“The videos will help support or deny what happened,” said Berghahn. “There may be times where a citizen believes an officer didn’t handle a situation in the best way, and videos will allow us to investigate those complaints.”
Footage can also be used to help smooth the prosecution process, showing situations such as DUI stops and domestic disputes.
“It’s been proven to smooth prosecution, and provides evidence that would otherwise go unseen,” said Berghahn.
Officers have the ability to view videos from their own cameras, but are unable to delete any portion of them. Viewing the videos can help officers write and retain better records, as they can go back and document details that may have been missed in the initial situation.
Elizabeth PD has a total staff of 10, so every officer will be equipped with a camera during every shift, with backups available to avoid any problems should any of the cameras not be working. Axon carries a three-year warranty on the cameras.
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