Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Meet His All-Seeing Partner on Patrol

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Meet His All-Seeing Partner on Patrol

Article excerpt

DASHCAMS: Should all officers have video cameras in their police cars

Palmetto Police Officer Dave Burns has a silent partner who watches his every move, gathers evidence he might miss and preserves his reputation if a citizen calls to complain.

The Coban Technologies video camera system mounted in Burns' squad car is not cheap: the unit retailed for around $10,000. Despite that, his department has had dashboard cameras -- dashcams - - since the 1990s.

Palmetto Police officials say they believe that the benefits that the video camera provides to officers, the department and the public, far outweigh the costs.

The question of whether cameras should be standard fare in all police cars has come into sharp focus in recent months following a spate of incidents where the technology could have provided critical evidence in disputes about whether officers acted properly.

But the Palmetto department's commitment to video technology is unique among law enforcement agencies in Southwest Florida.

The Manatee County and Sarasota County sheriff's offices equip only their DUI units with cameras. Manatee County sheriff's spokesman Dave Bristow has a succinct answer for why his agency only has the devices in 11 traffic cars: "Money."

Burns, a seven-year veteran and field training officer for the Palmetto Police Department, said he would not patrol without one.

"I like it," he said. "It's saved all of us from citizen complaints, and it gathers a lot of evidence."

Burns uses the playback feature to help rookies hone their officer safety skills. The camera shows the trainees errors that could get them killed when they start patrolling on their own. Even seasoned officers use this feature.

Palmetto Police Lt. Scott Tyler touts the evidence gathering ability of the all-seeing cameras, and increased public confidence they instill. As the department's internal affairs investigator, the cameras also make his job easier.

In recent weeks Tyler dismissed three complaints against his fellow officers. …

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