Wake County

Raleigh police chief debuts new body-worn cameras

Garner police officer Kevin Murray tests a body camera as he wears one before starting his patrol in Garner on April 8, 2015. A bill currently being considered in the General Assembly would require all major NC law enforcement agencies to equip their officers with body-worn cameras.
Garner police officer Kevin Murray tests a body camera as he wears one before starting his patrol in Garner on April 8, 2015. A bill currently being considered in the General Assembly would require all major NC law enforcement agencies to equip their officers with body-worn cameras. cseward@newsobserver.com

Cassandra Deck-Brown, chief of the Raleigh Police Department, wore a small camera clipped to the shirt of her uniform as she addressed a group of residents Monday evening.

Then she passed the cube-shaped device around the room at the Lions Park Community Center to give everyone a look the new body-worn cameras for Raleigh police officers.

“How do you activate it?” asked Jimmy Edwards, a retired trooper with the N.C. State Highway Patrol.

“There’s a button at the bottom,” said Deck-Brown, who later added that one click of the button turns the device on while two clicks turn it off.

Deck-Brown and members of her command staff visited the East Raleigh Citizens Advisory Council on Monday to answer questions and get feedback about the department’s decision to outfit 200 sworn officers with body cameras by the end of the year, with 400 more equipped with the devices by the end of next year.

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Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown, seen here in March. Chris Seward cseward@newsobserver.com

Police will attend a total of 18 community meetings through late August to talk about the cameras.

On Monday, some people asked about the cameras’ technology, including maintenance and repairs. Some asked about whether the cameras would actually be turned on to capture images of police work.

Jerome Myles, 64, said he heard about the case of Justine Damond, a 40-year-old woman who was shot and killed by a police officer in Minneapolis on Saturday after she called 911 to report a possible crime. The officer’s body-worn camera was not activated.

“What happens if that happens here in Raleigh?” Myles asked.

Raleigh police officers will turn on their body-worn cameras at the beginning of their shifts, Deck-Brown said. The devices go into “standby” mode, and officers are required to activate them along with mounted dash cameras during traffic stops, arrests, unlawful disturbances or disorders, calls involving emotionally or mentally disturbed persons and during all warrantless searches of individuals, vehicles, buildings or other places.

“We have an auditing process in place to make sure the devices are working properly and that the officers are following policy,” Deck-Brown said. “I can’t speak for Minnesota, but if there are policies and rules in place, they must be followed.”

The cameras are manufactured by WatchGuard Video, a company in Texas that equips about one-third of all law enforcement agencies in the United States and Canada, according to its website.

Raleigh is getting $1.2 million in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Justice to help pay for the cameras.

Deck-Brown said the department’s plan to equip officers with body-worn cameras took root during four community meetings in late 2015. Those meetings, held throughout the city, drew more than 600 residents and police officers.

“One of the things that came out of (of those meetings) was the need to evaluate body-worn cameras coming to our city,” Deck-Brown said.

She said it was important to consider ever-evolving technology and to make sure the department did not rely on a cookie-cutter approach that might be working in other cities.

“We wanted something that meets the needs of Raleigh,” she said.

About 30 people attended Monday’s meeting, and more are expected to attend upcoming meetings of the city’s Citizens Advisory Councils.

“We hope to walk away with the community more enlightened,” Deck-Brown said. “Nothing is finalized, and your input is definitely welcome.”

Here’s the schedule:

▪ July 18, 7 p.m. at West CAC meeting at Woodland Center, 5611 Jaguar Park Drive

▪ July 20, 7 p.m. at Atlantic CAC meeting at Green Road Community Center, 4201 Green Road

▪ July 20, 7 p.m. at Hillsborough CAC meeting at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, 1801 Hillsborough St.

▪ July 24, 7:30 p.m. at Glenwood CAC meeting at Glen Eden Pilot Park, 1500 Glen Eden Drive

▪ July 24, 7:30 p.m. at Midtown CAC meeting at Five Points Center for Active Adults, 2000 Noble Road

▪ July 24, 7 p.m. at South Central CAC meeting at Roberts Park Community Center, 1300 E. Martin St.

▪ Aug. 8, 7 p.m. at Northwest CAC meeting at Northwest District, 8016 Glenwood Ave.

▪ Aug. 15, 7 p.m. at North CAC meeting at Abbotts Creek Community Center, 9950 Durant Road

▪ Aug. 22, 7 p.m. at Wade CAC meeting at Jaycee Park Module, 2405 Wade Ave.

For more information, contact Laura Hourigan with the Raleigh Police Department at 919-996-1219 or Laura.Hourgan@raleighnc.gov, or Housing and Neighborhoods Community Specialist Supervisor Sheila Lynch at 919-996-5713 or Sheila.Lynch@raleighnc.gov.

Thomasi McDonald: 919-829-4533, @thomcdonald

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