River Falls police to add dashboard cameras to patrol cars next year

Posted December 7, 2016

For the first time, the River Falls Police Department (RFPD) will be incorporating dashboard cameras into its patrol cars during the first quarter of 2017, according to the chief of police.

Gordon Young, who has served as the chief for the RFPD since January of this year, said in an email that all five of the department’s patrol cars will have them installed. Most the cost will be covered by a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

“The cost is $5,000 for all five cameras. We will pay $1,000 and the grant pays the rest,” he said.

The cameras, which are from the company TASER, are the first in-car model by the Arizona-based manufacturer of electronic weapons and other law enforcement technology.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police conducted a study on the effectiveness of in-car cameras. The study found that they are particularly useful for increasing officer-citizen safety and assuring that everybody involved in an incident is held accountable for their actions. The study also found the cameras reduce an agency’s liability.

Throughout this past year, Young said that the department has not run into any problems for not recording an incident. Despite that, he did say that the cameras are beneficial. They provide evidence for prosecutors, and if a police officer needs to or if they forget, they can use the footage to recall any part of an event.

Additionally, the footage can help with training. He said that officers can review situations and critique their own performances. Also, the videos can be shown to new recruits and used for advanced officer training.

Desiree Wiesen-Martin, an assistant professor in the sociology department at UW-River Falls who teaches criminology, said she thinks that transparency is one of the biggest things the cameras offer.

“Dash cameras are used to provide transparency in policing, so that we know what the police officer is doing and what the offender is doing,” she said.

She went on to say that the importance of cameras isn’t exactly clear cut. She mentioned specific points such as when and for how long an officer should turn them on, whether they are expected to reduce crime, and how the footage will be used.

Wiesen-Martin said she thinks that details like those should be evaluated more closely to truly determine the full effectiveness of them.

Although the RFPD does not have prior experience with the cameras, Young does. He said that his previous employer in Michigan, the Royal Oaks Police Department, used them and received a lot of support from the community.