Some Oklahoma Police Wear Lapel Cameras For Their Own Protection

Thursday, July 12th 2012, 7:07 pm
By: Tess Maune

More and more, officers are clipping cameras on their uniforms.

Police departments that use these types of cameras say the videos usually protect officers in the long run.

In Oologah, the chief praises the technology for cutting down on officer complaints. He said it can even be used as a training tool.

"There's disadvantages to them, but the advantages outweigh those by a lot," said Oologah Police Chief, Novale Thompson.

Thompson said he is a firm believer that his officers should be camera-equipped at all times.

"You get a lot of complaints that are just totally unjustified. And there complaints that are [justified], but there a lot that aren't," Thompson said.

Because of those complaints, Oologah officers always wear what's call a "VidMic".

The camera component is actually inside the police radio. It captures video, audio, and even still pictures.

The cameras catch criminals, that Thompson said, have the tendency to stretch the truth.

"Probably the biggest thing I see is not that people are outright lying, but they exaggerate the facts," Thompson said.

Oologah has been using the technology now for about four years, but it isn't the only city with officers wearing cameras on their uniforms.

Owasso has similar cameras on their lapels, and Claremore is also testing out these kinds of cameras.

7/10/2012 Related Video: City Of Owasso Releases Video Of Officer Hitting Suspect

Of course each police department has its own policy. For Oologah, it's that anytime a police officer knows he or she is going to have contact with the public, he or she is to turn the VidMic on.

The videos are quite clear and they're kept on file for up to a year.

In Jenks, officers have dashboard cameras.

Tulsa is in the process of installing the same in its patrol cars.

Thompson said dash cams are a good option—just not for his force.

"Eighty percent of what an officer does is not in front of the car. It's going to be, you know, getting out on domestics and things like that, and obviously you can't take the dash cam with you," Thompson said.

And price is the also a factor—dash cams cost around $5,000 each, while the VidMic is only $700.

Thompson said videos have helped his department avoid a couple of lawsuits, and have also played a role in convicting criminals.