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UPDATE: Chattanooga police agencies to test officer cameras

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - UPDATE: Local law enforcement could be getting a community donation in order to test out body worn cameras on police.

Two donations, totaling $25,000, were made to the AEGIS Law Enforcement Foundation for Hamilton County Deputies and Chattanooga Police to test out body cameras during patrols.

The push for body cameras is turning out to be more than just the community responding to national events like Ferguson, many local officers take it upon themselves to buy their own body cameras, wearing one for their own safety and protection.

"And they just want the world to be able to see the great job they do in a difficult environment," said Chief Fred Fletcher, "So I think that motivates them to be able to do this."
    
Chief Fletcher wants to see all of his officers wearing body cameras during patrols but a few things need to be sorted out before that can happen.

"There are cost issues that the casual observer doesn't know about," Fletcher said, "Things like paying for storage, paying for the human resources to manage all that data storage, the policy, the procedures, the real life cost implications of open records."
      
City leaders are expected to approve donation and the decision on how many cameras will depend on cost, make and model of the camera.

"Everything from where to wear them, to make sure they capture as much and as best as possible."
    
While the bigger Chattanooga law agencies are now looking into body camera use, officers at the Chattanooga Housing Authority police department have been wearing them for the past two years.

"Just really helping the officer out on the scene because they can get the statement from a victim, from a witness," said Chief Felix Vess, "They don't have to take notes or write it down and they also can use that in court."
    
The department modeled their police camera policies off of other national agencies, knowing cameras are already a common accessory in public places.

"From video cameras out in buildings to people with cell phones," Vess said, "At least you have a full unedited version of the incident that occurred."

Both Police Chief's believe individual body cameras could become a normal part of the police uniform in the future.

"The body cameras are actually cheaper than the in car cameras," Vess said, "So why not have a body camera instead?"

The two donations first have to be approved by city council before the money can be used to buy body cameras, which means it could be several months before the cameras are in use.


ORIGINAL STORY: CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - Police agencies in Chattanooga are taking the first steps toward outfitting officers with body-mounted cameras.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that two donors are giving $25,000 to a law enforcement foundation so the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office and Chattanooga Police Department can buy a handful of body cameras for officers to test the technology.

The agencies plan to split the money.

The sheriff's department expects to purchase six cameras. Chattanooga police estimate the money will pay for eight to 12 cameras. Both agencies will test the cameras before deciding whether to put them on all officers.

The cameras will give the public, court system and victims a street-level view of how officers perform their duties.

Local law enforcement leaders say the cameras also offer a new layer of protection against false complaints.

Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press  

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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