Written by Becca Habegger, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
DUBUQUE (KWWL) -
Police departments throughout eastern Iowa and beyond are increasing their use of cameras.
This June, the Platteville, Wis. department starting using digital video surveillance glasses.
The lightweight eyeglasses come with a small camera. It records audio and video from the point of view of the officer wearing them. It looks like something straight out of a sci-fi or spy movie.
"Technology like this is just exploding," Platteville police chief Doug McKinley said. "I mean, it started probably close to 20 years ago with video in the squads and now it's progressed to...personal-worn glasses."
The department bought 20 of the eyeglasses in June, for about $150 per pair. There's a power button, a camera and a mic and a USB and memory card port. That's about it.
Right across the Mississippi River in Iowa, the Dubuque police department didn't go with the glasses. Instead, they have five clip-on body cameras, which cost about $900 a piece.
"It's very small. It's smaller than the microphone we wear for our radio. Easy to mount, easy to operate," spokesperson Lt. Scott Baxter said. "Our bike officers -- our community policing officers -- are using them. They're in the process of trying to acquire four more of these for our school resource officers to wear within the schools for some of the situations they encounter."
He said technology has revolutionized crime-fighting, from squad car laptops and dash cams to surveillance cameras throughout the city, on which dispatchers can keep an eye.
"The cameras we utilize throughout the city, within our patrol cars, on our officers, those are all in public settings or venues, so as long as you're not doing anything illegal within those public venues, you really have nothing to worry about," Baxter said.
The bottom line, he said, is technological advances help police do their job and protect people who aren't breaking laws.
"We understand that some people don't like the cameras around, for one reason or another, but, ultimately, it's about public safety and building good cases with the investigations that we engage in, so they're not going to go away any time soon," Baxter said. "You're on camera every day of your life, whether you realize it or not. A lot of stores have cameras. Casinos have cameras. Some churches even have cameras."
There are, however, limits.
"The officers, obviously, receive training as to what they can gather as evidence or take into custody as evidence, so a lot of the same rules and policies apply to those cameras, too," Baxter said. "That camera's not going to record anything audio- or visual-wise that that officer's not already going to be seeing or hearing."
McKinley said something along the same line.
"We don't utilize them at the hospital or in areas where somebody might be vulnerable to where you wouldn't want to have things documented," he said.
At the Cedar Rapids police department, spokesperson Cristy Hamblin said some of the agency's most useful technology is its automated traffic enforcement, automated fingerprint identification system and bomb robots.
Vicki Lalla is spokesperson for the Iowa City police department. She said the agency finds useful the laptops installed in squad cars, among other technology.
Officials with the Iowa Department of Transportation said those helpful squad car laptops can also distract officers. The DOT is installing a system in squad cars later this fall that will disable the laptop when the car reaches 15 miles per hour.
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