A neighboring department has outfitted a limited number of its officers with on-body video cameras, and deputies in Moore County could be using similar technology by the end of the year, said Sheriff Neil Godfrey.

“It is time for us to move forward in technology in that area, and that’s where most law enforcement agencies are headed,” Godfrey said.

The department is reviewing and field-testing several cameras in hopes of selecting one by the end of September and then issuing them to its 30 on-road deputies in November, Godfrey said, adding that he money for the initial purchase of the  camera would come from drug forfeiture funds.

Last week, the Hoke County Sheriff’s Office issued portable body cameras to its six school resource officers, and another nine cameras will be put to use by the department. The cameras were first deployed Friday night at a high school  football game.

“Whoever works anything with the schools will have one,” Hoke Sheriff Hubert Peterkin said of the body cameras, which cost $300 each.

The Hoke department has utilized $175,000 from drug forfeitures to purchase the body cameras and 25 in-car cameras. The purchase, combined with the five in-car cameras that were purchased a few years ago with grant money, will allow the department to outfit 25 patrol cars and five other department vehicles with cameras.

Peterkin said he has been exploring the option to add cameras to his department for several months. The idea wasn’t well-received at first.

“A few months ago we got some sour faces, but in light of what happened (in Ferguson, Mo.) they have come back and said this is something we have to have.”

The cameras clamp on the officers’ lapel or wrist and will be tamper-proof, so that the officers can’t delete anything from the camera.

“Having this technology can help take the ‘he said, she said,’ out of the equation,” Peterkin said. “That’s what our goal is, to minimize all the doubt.”

The cameras, he said, can also be a good training tool for officers.

“Sometime our officers do wrong, sometime they do bad, sometime the persons they are dealing with do wrong,” Peterkin said. “Bottom line, we want to see what we are doing so we can go back to training if we need to. The camera will show us what we need to work on.”

Moore County Sheriff’s Office patrol cars are not equipped with in-car cameras.

Ideally, Godfrey said, it would be best to have the portable cameras to pair with in-vehicle ones, but the vehicle cameras, which can cost between $5,000 and $7,000, are cost-prohibitive right now. He didn’t rule out adding in-vehicle cameras in the future.

Godfrey said on-body cameras “are a more cost-effective alternative,” but they aren’t without issues. Having the cameras brings up other details that will have to be worked out, such as training officers to properly use them, creating a policy for their use, and determining a protocol for storing video and for how long.

Most law enforcement departments in Moore County have in-vehicle cameras, but no department has on-body cameras.

Carthage police officers have been testing an on-body camera for several weeks, and Chief Bart Davis said overall the results have been good, but that having the camera isn’t always well-received.

“Some appreciate the fact that they have the camera system there, because they are confident in the fact that they are not going to have any issues or problems, very professional, very respectful, polite, so they are not really that concerned,” Davis said. “We have others that maybe don’t feel as confident about being able to maintain under pressure when somebody starts pushing their buttons, or they are a little bit intimidated by it.”

Davis said he hopes his officers will understand that the portable on-body cameras can be a great tool.

“All in all, it tends to force them to make the effort, and it just makes them better officers,” Davis said. “Knowing that it is there, that it is recording, it kind of forces them to be more patient, more understanding, and to take their time, and that’s what we want.”

Southern Pines has looked at body cameras in the past, but is not looking to add them.

“It is not something that we are currently looking at,” said Capt. Charles Campbell. “But it’s not something I am going to say we’re not going to look at in the future.”

One of the concerns Campbell voiced was the evolving technology and the desire to provide officers with quality, long-lasting equipment.

“These systems are pretty expensive,” he said. “They are not cheap, so you want something that will stand the test of time, and is going to give you the capabilities you need 10 years down the road.”

When the time is right, however, in-car cameras in Southern Pines patrol cars, like other departments, will be compatible with a line of on-body cameras, which will allow easier software interface and data storage for evidence purposes.

Pinehurst Police Chief Earl Phipps said his department has been examining adding on-body cameras for its officers for the past year-and-a-half.

“We’ve been actually field testing and kicking the tires of cameras to decide what we want to do,” Phipps said. “We don’t want to rush and get something that doesn’t cover what we are looking for it to cover, which is as close to that officer’s point of view, what they’re seeing that we can see.”

He said his department has field-tested a couple of different models, seeking one that is the “best fit” for the department, that is comfortable to wear, and that is durable.

“In low-light conditions, how is it going to operate?” he said. “In a struggle, what is the point of view going to be, and how durable will it be? The good old- fashion field-testing with that stuff is how you figure that stuff out, and then you have to figure out what’s your best fit.”

Phipps is looking at adding the cameras in next year’s budget. The department currently has in-car cameras.

“It would be nice to just go to Walmart or Best Buy and get 20 cameras and give them to our officers, but it’s not that simple,” he said.

Aberdeen Police Chief Tim Wenzel said his department “will eventually go to body cameras” once the department’s entire fleet of patrol vehicles is outfitted with cameras. All of the patrol cars have cameras, but the supervisor’s vehicles don’t, Wenzel said.

Whispering Pines Chief Domonic Campbell said his department, which has an in-car camera and video storage system, is waiting for that company to complete the development of a body camera that will integrate with the current system.

“You don’t want to jump on the first thing that comes out,” Campbell said. “You want to give everybody time to try it and get the bugs worked out of it a little while before you jump in and get it.”

Vass Police Chief Brian Deel said the on-body cameras would be extremely beneficial to his department. They have tested a couple of cameras and “it is something they are definitely going to add” in the future.

“For the cost, I don’t understand why more agencies don’t have them,” Deel said.

Wenzel said the company that makes the in-vehicle cameras have the capability to interface with body cameras, which is something the department considered when buying the in-car cameras.

“Once the entire fleet is outfitted, we will transition to those (body cameras), and they will work along with the car camera,” Wenzel said.

The body cameras are not in this year’s budget, Wenzel said.

The issue of on-body cameras for police has recently become a hot topic in the aftermath of a fatal police shooting of an unarmed teenager on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo., in which accounts of what happened widely varied.

All the representatives from the departments interviewed for this story said they have been considering adding on-body cameras months, even years before the fatal shooting in Ferguson.

Contact Tom Embrey at (910) 693-2484 or tembrey@thepilot.com​

(16) comments

fugitiveguy

Given the event dominating the news as of late it maybe the only way a LEO can get a fair shake.

pearlharbor

It won't stop Al Sharpton from putting a spin on it. But it might help sort out the details frm the spin.

Sean

It is sad but, for the most part, law enforcement in most communities does not protecting the citizens; it preys on the citizens. They have too much tax money, and the money is not spent in the interests of the citizens that pay it.

Sean

bit of a grammatical catastrophe there. Sorry...

fugitiveguy

Sean, please elaborate on how law enforcement in "most" communities preys on its citizens. How did you arrive at that conclusion?

Sean

My wife and I are somewhat dull middle aged law abiding citizens. The other day she was driving to Laurinburg and when she got there she sent me a message to be careful there are a lot of police out on the road today. I said, well then she should feel very safe. We both chuckled at that.

I am not criticizing individual officers, they are doing their job. I just don’t think Linden road, Burning tree, Midland or similar roads across the country need to be so heavily patrolled. I don’t think local law enforcement should be a paramilitary organization in “most” communities. I think it is safe to go 70 or 80 on “most” interstates. I do not think I should be pulled over, waved over actually, while driving through Whispering pines because the police have found an excess of litter on the road in that area. (This happened!) Perhaps “many” is better than “most”?

pearlharbor

Sean, none of what you have said here makes sense. For my part I'd like LE to be given a green light to pull over litterers and ticket them. Laurinburg is a drug run. I'm glad LE patrols drug run highways. If this is your only problem with LE you have obviously never lived in Detroit where the crime evacuated the city. If you want to see what a really militarized LE looks like take a trip to China. Litterers there go to jail.

Sean

Pearlharbor, I think you are missing my point. I did not litter. I do not think there was an excess of litter in that spot. The LE had set up a road block on Lakeview and were stopping all vehicles without cause. Lakeview is not a hotbed of crime! Perhaps there were too many officers on duty at that time and place.

Detroit, Chicago, New York, St. Louis... These places are not comparable to Pinehurst, Whispering Pines, etc.

As for the war on drugs. I don't have any solutions, just an observation: The more they fight it, the more violent it gets, and not one ounce less is brought in or used.

pearlharbor

Having a presence of LE in Pinehurst may hurt initially, but I guarantee you in the long run the residents will thank God they jumped on the criminal element before it got bad. If they were on Longview they had good reason or suspicion to be there. Decriminalizing drugs is one approach to taking the profit out of selling. America HAS to get a handle on this situation or it will literally take us down. I would prefer folks didn't do drugs at all because it makes them stupid. I do think we should reserve our prisons for violent offenders. And those white collar criminals should have all their money taken away. The corporate criminals should HAVE to pay heavy fines when they pollute our natural resources. And my word where in the world do you have to go so fast that 80 miles an hour seems acceptable to you. I pray you never have one of the people on drugs pull out in front of you going that fast. Just try to remember LE exists to protect you. If they appear to be slowing you down maybe there is reason for that. I am 67 and never so much as had a parking ticket. Never had anything but respect for LE.

bebe

Imagine a world without law enforcement. No thanks! I am thankful every time I see law enforcement of any kind. Very few people can handle the stress that they must endure every time they go on duty. Anything that can be done to make their job easier should be done.

jimt

Oh my god (even though I'm a devout secular humanist) I agree with pearlharbor, except that I'd throw white collar criminals into maximum security prisons. I guarantee you that that will deter them more than "taking their money away." And let's be sure that prison officials give them extra slippery soap in the showers.

Kathryn G

Hopefully everyone understands that there's so much more to LE than writing tickets. As the wife of an LEO I can tell you that these men and women work incredibly hard putting the needs and concerns of citizens and victims first in all matters. Whether it's determining who smashed in someones mailbox or solving a homicide, they field phone calls at all hours the night, leave the house in the middle of night, work on holidays, and often run on no sleep for days at a time to provide security for us. Most do it all without complaint because they love their jobs and are dedicated to protecting us all. I agree with babe - I don't want to imagine a world without law enforcement!

Francis

In all fairness to Sean, Whispering Pines PD at one time did spend quite of bit of time with these road checks, not sure about these days since I avoid that area as much as possible, but for the most part SPPD and the MCSD are two of the best departments we have in this area, PHPD has handed out a boatload of tickets on Midland Road, I have no idea who benefits the most financially but there is no denying that area is a honey pot for them handing out tickets, would not be so bad but the younger officers seem to have an attitude about them, I think it may be the uniform makes them think they are greater than they are, just saying, having once been charged with doing 50 in a 35, asked for proof since I felt I was not going quite that fast, officer replied he judged my speed by eye, no radar, proved to be all that was necessary for them, since have eliminated Pinehurst from my travel routes. You just cannot argue with those people, I paid and now limit my eateries to Southern Pines, they could give several of these local PD a few tips on how to use all that authority.

Flabbergasted
Flabbergasted

Its quite sad, that PHPD seems to have nothing more to do than try to set up strategically placed speed traps at all entrances coming into and out of Pinehurst.
Thank god the speed limit has been lowered to a idle speed of 25, to really help make it easier for them to write as many tickets as they need to, on any given day. Its like fishing with dynamite. I have many friends who have commented on having a first impression of this looking like a total police state with the constant visual appearance of them so focused on speed traps. It takes away the beauty that Pinehurst has. They all have chosen to go to Ashville, Kiawah or Hilton Head which is sad because that is lost revenue for the area. You stay classy Pinehurst!

suppersready

Amen Flabbergasted! PHPD has always been this way, and are well known for pulling over or detaining people on foot for no reason at all. The worst aspect is the attitude of many of the officers that is very power abusive and aggressive. They behave like a traffic stop for tinted windows or an out of date inspection is a felony armed criminal stop. If I did wrong give me a ticket, I will own up to it completely, but don't stop me for walking in my own neighborhood at night and then keep me there for 30 minutes after you establish that I live there and I am doing no wrong. Notice how you never hear these stories about SPPD or any others (except maybe Whispering Pines)??

dug1

PH doesn't make money from tickets. Revenue split is 90% to schools with 10% returned to PH. It appears that the village wide 25 mph speed limit was designed to allow the deer herd to grow.

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