UCSO enters new world of officer transparency with advanced live-streaming body cameras

Arkansas News

UNION COUNTY, Ark. (KTVE/KARD) 4/14/21 — Patrolling the streets and responding to calls just became a little more safer and transparent for officers and the public.

Union County Sheriff’s Department has been using new body cameras for the last month. They believe this new technology will be a game changer.

“El Dorado isn’t a real violent place. We do have some incidents that occur and having the body cameras keeps both the officers safe and the individuals that they are going to assist and hopefully they will do the right thing,” Bishop George Calloway said.

The department purchased 21 body cameras and new tasers which will cost over $200,000.

UCSO has contracted with Axon Enterprises for the equipment which will be paid out over the next five years. This will be at no cost to taxpayers, instead the department will use profits from inmate commissaries.

“That is a lot of money but what is a life worth to us? That’s the way I look at it. Whether it be one of my deputies or someone in the community’s life, their lives are worth a whole lot more than $240,000,” Sheriff Ricky Roberts said. “We are going to use their money to put back in to our training and making sure our citizens are safe that way it doesn’t cost taxpayers. They’ll benefit from it.”

The department has entered in a new world of police accountability. The new cameras have several features including a livestream capability.

It allows deputies to initiate a traffic stop or interact with the public and as the incident is unfolding, supervisors can watch it all happen in real time through an Axon app.

The live feed can be viewed on a cellular phone or desktop computer by dispatch or someone else at the department.

Captain Jason Parker says this helps keep track of officers while they’re on duty plus it allows for supervisors to offer training on the spot.

“They can watch us make the arrest and watch us make the entry that they can ensure that the best practices of the sheriff’s office are being followed. If there is something they have a problem with, they can critique it,” Captain Parker said.

According to policy, when a deputy is encountering citizens body cameras are supposed to be activated.

Though, if something happens unexpectedly causing a deputy to draw a weapon, there is a feature that automatically records the encounter and supervisors at the department receive an alert on their phones.

“We don’t have to worry about anything being missed. These cameras are absolutely phenomenal and it changes the game as far as being able to make sure that we are doing everything right,” Sergeant Eric Meadows said.

It’s a feature that deputies hope will build trust in the community. Aside from the cameras being more advanced, it will also have a much higher video and audio recording quality.

It is equipped with several microphones and can recognize an individuals voice at a distance and from multiple body cameras.

“It makes me feel a lot safer as an individual. It makes me feel very comfortable with our young people,” Bishop Calloway said.

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