Police equipped with cameras

Published 12:32 am Wednesday, February 24, 2010

SELMA — If a police officer here pulls you over, smile. It’s likely you are on camera.

The Selma Police Department has received 40 VIDMICS to help with policing. A VIDMIC communicates just like a regular shoulder microphone, except the device houses a full color digital video recorder and a digital audio recorder. The device will hold 2 /12 -to-three hours of video.

Selma Police chief William Riley III said the VIDMICS serve a two-prong purpose. First, the devices will help officers during times when tension rises during a call. For instance, if someone becomes combative during a traffic stop, the officer can record the situation and the evidence could be used in court.

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Recently, officer Thomas Richburg used the device to record evidence at an arrest scene. He took the device back to the police station. He downloaded the video in a file with Richburg’s name on it to preserve the chain of evidence. Only his supervisor has control of the video now.

Additionally, said Riley, the public is protected by these devices. If a police officer becomes too rough or is verbally abusive during a confrontation, the video will tell that story, too.

“It’s policing the police of what they said and what they did,” the police chief said.

Officer Britton Langston said he feels more confident about what he’s doing on the street with the VIDMICS.

Officers also may go back and watch how they handled a particular situation while on patrol, Langston said. “It helps with training, also,” he said.

The VIDMICS cost about $700 per unit. Selma afforded these because of a grant from the state Department of Agriculture and Industries paid for them.

“This project was ongoing before Commissioner Ron Sparks announced he was going to run for office,” said Evans. “We are grateful for his support.”

Sparks. a Democratic candidate for governor, visited with officers today to see the new equipment. He said his office is glad to support the Selma Police Department with the grant because local departments many times work with rural crimes and accidents.

Sparks also said he worked collaboratively with state Sen. Hank Sanders, who acted as a liaison with the grant process.

“It’s a pleasure to work with local communities because they work with us,” Sparks said.

Sanders, who is seeking re-election to his seat in the Alabama Legislature, said the VIDMICS would make the city “safter for police and this city safer for citizens.

Sanders praised Evans for seeking out the grants and exploring new technology for the police department. “He’s stepped out and made this city a better city,” said Sanders. “He’s a champion for the police and also a champion for the people.”

Evans and Riley showed off the new digital devices at Tuesday’s Selma City Council meeting. Richburg and officer Britton Langston wore their cameras into the council chambers. Richburg recorded some of the proceedings. Later, Riley played back the recording for council members.

“I am impressed with this technology,” said Council member the Rev. Dr. Cecil Williamson of Ward 1.