Lapel cameras help sheriff’s deputies fight crime, prevent lawsuits

Thursday, February 13, 2014 - 12:37am

The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office is getting some major help thanks to a tiny, crime fighting tool. Deputies are being outfitted with lapel cameras that will capture everything an officer sees. It’s not only a measure that will protect deputies, it’s a tool that might help civilians.

When a sheriff’s deputies on a motorcycle pulls you over emotions might run high.
“Well the first reaction I get is like I get scared and I get nervous because obviously I did something wrong,” Ramon Alvarez of Kern Place told us.

"I'm not really comfortable getting stopped anywhere because I really think it's just the color of my skin,” Sarina Gibson of West El Paso explained to us.

But an objective eye, placed on an officer’s lapel eases some El Pasoans fears.
"Actually, I think I'd feel more comfortable 'cause if he messes up then they can actually hear what he said,” Alvarez said.

"A little bit more comfortable, definitely. Because they can't get away with the things they get away with now,” Gibson explained. This is one of the reasons why sheriff’s deputies are outfitting the motorcycle unit with the cameras. The cameras also protect deputies, officials said.

"It tends to protect us in the way that it captures everything that the officer is seeing at that time,” Deputy Daniel Rodriguez with EPCSO told us. The cameras capture everything from the officer’s point of view. "You see what the officer sees, hear what the officer hears, it's good for evidence." Deputies claim there’s no way to alter the video and audio once it’s captured.

Earlier this year, these tools have proven themselves in an Albuquerque shootout. The cameras captured the dramatic moments leading up to the suspect’s death. While there hasn’t been a case like this one in El Paso, deputies explained they want to protect themselves from any complaints and possible lawsuits. "Any evidence, any vehicle damage, it goes on and on, these cameras are very helpful,” Deputy Rodriguez said.

Helpful in capturing all that happens when a deputy turns on the lights and sirens and stops a driver. "I would feel comfortable because like I know it's going to be his word against the video and the video doesn't lie,” Alvarez added.

There are a few downfalls of the cameras. They have to flip the switch manually and they have a price tag of $900 each, deputies said. Even then, the Sheriff is working on securing funds to outfit each and every deputy with a lapel camera. At the time of this report, only ten officers in the motorcycle unit have these cameras, according to sheriff’s deputies.


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