WETHERSFIELD — The town council unanimously approved the purchase of eight new high definition dashboard cameras for the town's police cruisers Monday.
The new cameras will record directly onto a computer server, as opposed to a DVD for current devices, Police Chief James Cetran said. They also provide higher quality video, Cetran said.
Because the department must retain records for a decade, storage of DVDs has become a problem, he said. One lieutenant has more than 2,400 in his office, Cetran said.
"He's getting to the point where he doesn't have space to sit any more," Cetran said.
Cetran called the dashboard cameras a vital tool. When an officer used his firearm several years ago, the device enabled the department to quickly conclude he was justified, Cetran said.
"The video clearly showed that the officer was in danger at the time of the shooting," he said. "I can only think what would have occurred in Ferguson if they'd had a car video system."
In addition, the cameras have virtually eliminated what Cetran called "nuisance" complaints where members of the public allege misconduct by officers, he said.
"I can't tell you how important this in-car video is to us," he said.
The new cameras will go in eight of the department's cruisers, compared to six now, Cetran said. Eight cars are typically on patrol, although occasionally the department adds a ninth vehicle, he said.
The cameras will cost $51,000, Cetran said. The department will use its forfeiture account to pay for the devices, he said. WatchGuard Video will provide the equipment, he said.
At some point, the department may upgrade the system so that cameras stream live into the dispatch center, Cetran said.
Asked by council members about the possibility of having officers wear body cameras, Cetran said that he has concerns, noting that police often enter private homes. Glastonbury police are using body cameras, and Cetran said he would monitor their experience with the technology.
In other business, the council approved the police department's participation in the state's first-ever program targeting distractive driving. The effort is aimed at catching motorists who use their cell phones, especially to text, while driving.
"Distractive driving is very dangerous, and we want to jump on board," Cetran said. "I think it's definitely worth it."
The state Department of Transportation will provide local police up to $15,000, with a 25 percent match from the town, for overtime to allow for distractive driving enforcement, according to a memo distributed to councilmen. The department will place two officers, a spotter and a chase car, at high traffic areas between Sept. 3 and 24, Cetran said.
The effort is similar to seatbelt and drunken driving checks already conducted by officers.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun