La Plata police request equipment upgrades, body cameras
The La Plata Police Department approached the town council during its work session this week to request in-car video technology and updated computer systems to be fitted into the department’s recently requested police vehicles.
The department also requested and presented quotes for Panasonic body cameras that will work hand-in-hand with the in-car technology, for the whole body camera program.
According to Carl Schinner, La Plata Chief of Police, during the fiscal year 2016-2017 budget process, the department requested and was provided funding to purchase personal body cameras for officers on frontline patrol through a grant from the Local Government Insurance Trust (LGIT) in the amount of $5,000 to supplement the cost of the new technology. The council provided an additional $13,000 in funding to complete the purchase.
The department recommended the purchase of the Panasonic personal body camera system because the cameras integrate with the department’s new Panasonic Arbitrator in-car camera system. Schinner said the Arbitrator system has worked seamlessly for the department since Breckford Corporation, a technology company based in Hanover, installed the units. The system is tamper proof, he said, and when an officer arrives at the station each day for roll call, the data from the camera system automatically downloads. There are no discs or tapes that need to be removed.
“These are necessary software upgrades,” Schinner said. “With this technology we can never be accused of going back and editing our videos. Even though the officers can view the video in their cars to go back and view a case, they still cannot tamper with it whatsoever.”
According to Schinner, the total cost for 13 Panasonic body cameras is now $32,125. The combined funding of the LGIT grant and the dollars approved in the FY 2016-2017 budget are $18,000, therefore an additional $14,125 would be needed to move the body camera project forward.
According to Schinner, in the last two years, the police department utilized the services of a professional up-fitter to install new agency vehicles with emergency equipment, as well as computers and in-car video technologies. The cost of up-fitting and technology upgrades were included in the cost of the three new patrol units in the FY 2016-2017 budget.
“The police department is satisfied with the vehicles that have been professionally upfitted these past two years by Breckford Corporation,” Schinner said. “Prior to having the vehicles professionally upfitted, the department often experienced finger-pointing over the responsibility of repairs. This led to vehicle downtime and oftentimes unnecessary expenditure to have a problem resolved.”
Breckford Corporation holds the state’s twoway radio and associated equipment and services contract. The cost of emergency equipment and its professional upfitting into three new patrol units is $29,805. The cost of four semi-ruggedized computers (with touchscreen option) and four in-car cameras, to include upfitting, is $41,179. The total cost is $70,984.
Schinner said the up-fitting process on the police vehicles takes about three days to complete.
“The challenge is when another police department’s police cars gets there before you,” Schinner said. “Usually Breckford does a good job of upfitting multiple agencies at one time, so that’s why we would like to get our cars ordered quickly and get them to Breckford before we get behind the other police departments. I feel bad that it is costing more than than we originally thought but, in the long run, we actually end up saving the town more problems.”
“I like having a single company doing all of the installations so that way if there is any interference between the radios, computers and other technology, there is no finger-pointing because it would be done in one place,” Councilman Keith Back said. “Being tied together by the same system is good and a nice feature.”
At the work session, the council allowed the police department to move forward with its personal body camera program. Town Manager Daniel Mears said part of the process is to ask the town council for authorization of large purchases, so it will be presented at the next town council business meeting for adoption.
“Once the body cameras arrive and officers are trained in how to use them, all front-line LPPD officers will be equipped with the new technology,” Schinner said.