Cpl. Francis Webb of the Cheverly Police Department recently improved his shooting technique when he makes traffic stops. It’s all just a matter of making a few adjustments to the camera.
For Webb, it was wearing his department-issued body camera lower on his chest in order to record the faces of people he stops.
“When I had it the first time I had to bend over a little bit,” Webb said.
Other officers at the police departments in Cheverly and New Carrollton may do the same, as the two stations have joined 2,600 other police agencies across the country and internationally that have purchased wearable body cameras from Vivue, a Seattle-based company that sells cameras that can be worn on an officer’s chest to record their interactions. Cheverly officers began using the cameras earlier this month while New Carrollton officers implemented the cameras six months ago.
The camera’s recordings are meant to provide more concrete evidence and reduce “he said, she said” situations where complaints are made against officers when they are on patrol, said Cheverly Police Chief Buddy Robshaw.
Periodically, superiors in each department will review some of the recordings to ensure that officers are following proper protocol on the job, said New Carrollton Police Chief David Rice.
Currently, officers for both stations record all interactions with citizens while in the line of duty.
Robshaw said he opted to purchase the body cameras over dashboard cameras, which record only traffic stops.
“The limitation is that you can’t carry the dash cameras into the house on a domestic violence call,” Robshaw said, who noted that body cameras cost about $900 each while dashboard cameras cost up to $1,800. “I would rather have it where I can get [a recording] the whole time.”
Cheverly resident Doug Alexander, 59, said he did not feel the cameras raised privacy concerns.
“It limits liability for the town and makes for accountability,” Alexander said. “I think the combination is a good thing to have for a police department.”
Rice said a body-camera recording already cleared an officer when a suspect complained about an alleged slur made about his nationality.
“We pulled the tape and watched it,” Rice said. “The officer maintained his professionalism, but the suspect was going ballistic. He was calling [the officer] a bunch of things.”
The suspect, who threatened to make a written complaint against the officer, never did and never asked to view the recording, Rice said.
The department’s 17 officers are issued one of the 12 cameras the station currently has when they go into field, Rice said.
In Cheverly, Webb said he has no problem with the added scrutiny the cameras bring, although he notes he must be on his best behavior when the camera is on.
“You are more liable to what you are doing out there, because it could come back and haunt you,” Webb said of the camera’s recordings. “In the long run I think this will protect me more than it will do harm.”