Harrington officers armed with body cameras

HARRINGTON — Some police officers in Harrington will now equipped with body cameras thanks to a grant, according to their Chief of Police Norman Barlow.

The grant covered the cost of several body cameras, a docking station, software and training through CoBan Technologies, a total of about $11,000.

“We’ve been wanting to implement them for a little while now. We ordered them last month and finally deployed them on Friday after training,” Chief Barlow said. “I think the body cameras will deliver transparency and a nice, clear picture of what goes on.”

The cameras will be made available to the patrol division and school resource officer for now, he added, and will help identify training needs, officer safety concerns and complacency. They will also help officers as an added tool while collecting evidence.

“I think they’re good. As long as you’re doing everything right, I don’t see an issue with it. It’s easier to testify in court if you have a video of events,” Officer Brooke Watkinson said as she displayed the body camera she used while patrolling Harrington last week. “It’s a good tool to have and puts another stamp on how to look at situations in a different way.”

Officer Watkinson is just one of several officers who have had the opportunity to use the new body cameras in Harrington, although Chief Barlow says the department had a good reception from staff members during training.

Recent research has shown Chief Barlow’s wishes may come true for his department.

Sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, a study released in 2017 showed that officers and community members in the Las Vegas area positively benefited from the use of body cameras.

To complete the study, the institute worked with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, CAN Institute for Public Research, Northeastern University and the University of Nevada in Las Vegas on a 12-month randomized control experiment involving 416 officers, according to NIJ Director David B. Muhlhausen.

“When we first proposed the idea of body-worn cameras, our officers were reticent,” LVMPD Sheriff Joe Lombardo said after the study. “They were fearful that the cameras would be too intrusive on their job. What they quickly found out was that [the camera] became their best eyewitness.

“The camera serves as a tool to pull back the curtain on some of the situations our officers face and gives them an unvarnished view of incidents that are of great public interest. The outcome has allowed us to become more transparent and build trust with the public.”

Much like Chief Barlow hopes, Mr. Muhlhausen added that the cameras helped to provide additional evidence, decreased crime, reduced incidents involving force on behalf of the officers, “affirmed and validated positive officer behavior” and resulted in less officer complaints by citizens.

“Combined with fewer complaints, this means that less time and money were spent on investigations — translating into significant cost savings. The study estimates net savings per camera-wearing officer to fall between $2,909 and $3,178 annually,” he wrote.

Support for the cameras have come from not only officers in the Harrington department, but from the community, as well.

“I think it’s a long time coming. The way things are today, we need protection. These are starting to be the norm. We have great city and citizen support which we need. We appreciate the growth out there, but technology is expensive. But, there’s no price for officer safety,” Chief Barlow said.

Jennifer Antonik can be reached at mc@newszap.com

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