Police departments around the nation start using body cameras

A close look at police body cameras and how they can help answer questions in controversial cases

Police body camera
Police body camera

(CNN/KTVI) – The police chief of Ferguson, Missouri says there is no video of the shooting of Michael Brown.

The Ferguson Police Department does not have dash cams, and though the department recently bought a couple of body cameras for officers, they were not being used Saturday.

Those body cams are becoming more prevalent in police departments nationwide.

This is video taken from two body cameras last September, when Daytona Beach police officers knocked down a door, and saw a man – armed with a knife – threatening a woman.

Then officers fired several shots, an action they say saved the woman’s life.

But that’s not the end of the story.

“I arrive on the scene 15 minutes later, there’s at least 100 residents out screaming at me as I get out of my car that my officers gunned down a guy laying in bed,” Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood said.

The video, Chief Chitwood says, helped ease tensions because it showed what really happened.

“And what could have been a really bad thing in the community, people start to look and say, oh, I understand what happened now, that’s not what I was told,” Chief Chitwood said.

That’s not the case in Ferguson, Missouri where the police chief says no video exists of the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

“It would make a huge difference. It would make a huge difference,” Chief Chitwood said.

Chitwood’s department is one of more than 1,200 law enforcement agencies in the country using body cameras.

“The positive so much outweighs the negative,” Chief Chitwood said.

Daytona Beach police have 75 cameras right now, with plans to add 50 more by the end of the year. Each camera costs $950, and the department is paying $23,000 a year to store the video. It’s a lot of money, but Chief Chitwood says, it’s money well spent.

“I can just tell you from the few incidences we had here, how it has been just a godsend for us,” Chief Chitwood said.

So why is there so much resistance? Why doesn’t every police department in the country have these body cams?

“Change is number one, cops don’t like change. Cost is number two,” Chief Chitwood explains.

And another reason, according to critics… “Every single day, everything you say will be recorded, scrutinized, so forth; and I think that would put a hindrance on cops. It would create a problem for them every day in dealing with the public,” Former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik said.

“I feel like I can do my job better,” Daytona Beach Police Officer Dale Kelley said.

Officer Kelley uses a body camera every single day.

“It’s a very important part of me now. But with [because my weapon protects me during a firefight but] this camera will protect me [in liabilities and stuff like that],” Officer Kelley said.

We were with him, as he responded to a call.

His body camera, engaged… capturing his drive to the scene and what he did once we arrived.

“This helps the officer feel more at ease,” Office Kelley said.

We wanted to see for ourselves how the cameras work.

After a brief demonstration, Officer Mike Oteri helped me gear up.

This is the belt clip for the recording device and a camera on my head. It’s not that uncomfortable, it’s kind of like wearing a headband.

To turn it on, you just have to press a button twice.

The camera automatically adjusts for lighting.

The technology, Chief Chitwood says, is invaluable.

Is this the future?

“In my heart, this is the future. It’s here. We might as well embrace it,” Chief Chitwood said.

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