LPD straps cops with body cams
By LPR Staff
In an effort to stay ahead of a looming state mandate requiring police officers to wear body cameras, the City of Lockhart recently authorized spending upwards of $120,000 for state-of-the-art technology for the Lockhart Police Department.
According to Lockhart PD Chief Mike Lummus, each officer in
the department is now equipped with a body camera that will record interactions with the public from the officer’s point of view.
“With everything that’s happened in the world lately, I’m glad that we have the opportunity to do this now,” Lummus said on Tuesday morning. “This not only protects our officers, it protects the public, and makes it that much easier for us to really be transparent with our interactions with the public.”
The cameras, which will be worn on the chest of each officer on patrol, record both video and sound, and are capable of taking still shots of scenes, as well.
“When we’re in the middle of a scene and see something that we need to make note of, all we have to do is press a button and it will take a picture, while still recording the video, as well,” said Patrol Sgt. Mark Mayberry. “It saves us time on scenes, because if we just see something that we need a picture of, we don’t have to stop and go get a camera, we can just push the button and it’s there.”
The technology, currently in use in such departments as Austin and Cedar Park, allows the officers to record their interactions and saves time and space in storage.
“We used to have to come back, download the cameras to a computer and burn a disk, and then use that disk to make a copy to give to investigations,” Lummus said. “Now, as soon as they pull into the station, [the cameras] start backing up to the main server. If they have to leave, it stops, and then picks up where it left off when they get back.”
Additionally, the new technology will save officers time in tracking interactions for later review. Instead of culling through multiple “tracks” on a DVD, the officers can call up their interactions by time within seconds.
“Having this technology has turned what used to be a five-step, 30 minute process into something that only takes us about 10 seconds,” Mayberry said.
Lummus expressed his gratitude to the City Council for making such an investment at this time.
“It shows me that they are really serious about not only protecting us, but about protecting the public,” he said. “We’re probably the only small department that has this kind of technology, and it’s really a blessing that the council chose to approve it.”
In addition to the purchase of the body cams, the Council approved in this year’s budget the addition of two new patrol officers, two new patrol vehicles and new dashboard camera equipment.
Like the body cameras, the “dash-cams” automatically download to the server when the patrol vehicle returns to the station.
“With these new cameras, we have the ability to do several things that we couldn’t do before,” Mayberry said of a “picture-in-picture” option that allows review of a citizen contact from both the dash-cam and body-cam perspective. “We can see all the angles of the stop, and know exactly what’s happened.”
In demonstrating the ease of use of the technology, Lummus has offered the opportunity, during public meetings, for citizens to request to see videos from specific times and places, and he has obliged.
“This is something that they started doing in Bastrop, so it wasn’t my idea,” he said. “But that helps us gain the trust of the public, in that we’re being transparent. And if we see something on those videos that we need to address with the officer, we address that immediately.”
The dashboard cameras engage immediately when the officer engages his or her lights, but the body cameras must be manually activated at the beginning of a contact.
“Of course, if someone forgets to activate it once, that’s something that will just be a slap on the wrist [with regard to discipline,” Lummus said. “If we find out that we have an officer that’s routinely not turning on the body camera, then we have a different set of problems we need to talk about.”
As early as last week, each officer on patrol should have been outfitted with a body camera, and all patrol vehicles have been outfitted with the new dashboard equipment.
If you are concerned about a contact you have had with the Lockhart Police Department, Lummus encourages you to contact the Department at (512) 398-4401.
“These body cams are as much for the public’s protection as for ours,” he said. “If an officer got out of range of the dash cam, we weren’t able to review the contact if there was a complaint. With the body cameras, we have that perspective now, and can give a more thorough review if a citizen has an issue.”
Lummus said he expects a legislative mandate in the near future requiring all officers in the State of Texas to wear body cameras.
“This is a great thing the council did for us,” he said. “Instead of waiting until it’s required, we went ahead and did it now. That’s better for everyone, because if we had waited for the mandate to come down, that’s just that much more time that something could happen.”