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[whitespace] Police get upgraded video cameras

Department is replacing systems that that were first installed in 1994

Campbell--Over the next few months, Campbell Police will be getting updated versions of the video cameras mounted in the department's patrol cars.

On Jan. 2, city council approved a plan that allows eight police cars to be outfitted with the new mobile video recording systems. The department already has four new systems.

The existing video systems were installed in 1994, and are considered to be outdated.

Capt. Russell Patterson says, "There are newer systems out there."

Council members voted on whether to authorize the police department to bypass a formal bidding process for eight new mobile video recording systems and instead award the $54,426 contract to Kustom Signals Corporation.

The new video systems consist of two parts: a camera and monitor mounted on the windshield near the rearview mirror, and a recorder in the trunk. Six-hour videotapes are used in the systems.

The cameras record car stops, vehicle pursuits and any other contact between officers and civilians.

The department got help to buy the new cameras from the Association of Bay Area Governments.

In 1986, ABAG formed the Pooled Liability Assurance Network (PLAN) Corporation. PLAN's purpose is to protect its members against liability and to provide claims insurance.

According to PLAN Manager Marcus Beverly, one facet of PLAN's purpose is to "identify and reduce lawsuits against police." Officers need to have evidence of defense against false accusations.

In 1994, ABAG gave PLAN the funds to purchase "test" video cameras to install in police cars in select member cities, including Campbell.

Using $40,000 from the 1994-95 capital improvement plan (CIP), Campbell's seven-year-long plan for improvements and renovations, police then purchased from the Kustom Signals Corporation the 11 video systems needed to outfit the remainder of the fleet.

Campbell was the first city in Northern California to install video recorders in all of its patrol cars.

In 1997, PLAN launched a matching grant program. For every system purchased by police, ABAG would purchase a second for the department.

Campbell's police department took advantage of the plan and purchased two video systems last year, receiving two free. The four updated systems will be installed in the new Ford Crown Victoria sedans arriving in the spring.

The remaining eight vehicles will arrive sometime next year. Says Patterson, "There's an ongoing process to update the cars and equipment."

The city budgeted $60,000 last year in the current CIP for the new cameras. Sources of CIP funds include the CIP reserves and sales and property taxes.

City Information Officer Al Bito says inflation and more state-of-the-art technology accounts for the increase in cost per video system.

"The newer ones are more complicated... more digitized," he explains.

According to Patterson, the cameras thus far have been extremely successful. "We've had them since 1994 and they've been fantastic."

Patterson says the systems serve as an "independent witness."

Patterson says that one example of the usefulness of the cameras occurred when a women tried to file a police complaint. The woman had said that the officer dropped her off in a dark, remote location to make a phone call. The video showed that he dropped her off at a busy, well-lit shopping center.

The lady dropped her complaint, Patterson says.

Beverly also points out the benefits of the cameras. He says, "Clients have withdrawn claims [against the police] after seeing the video."
Gloria I. Wang

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