The Crofton police force is joining the video age by installing a video camera in one of the community's three squad cars, hoping to help convict drunken drivers and better protect its officers.
The sleek camera that mounts on the car's windshield just to the right of the rear-view mirror records police chases, arrests and drunken drivers weaving across roads.
"Any time I make a traffic stop, I'd like to have the tape rolling," said Sgt. John Wortman, one of Crofton's four police officers. Crofton doesn't seem like a real violent place, but it can happen. If somebody's going to shoot me and ruin my day, I would at least like to have it on tape."
The $5,000 system was donated by the Allstate Foundation with the help of Dennis Stackhouse, a member of the Crofton Board of Directors who also is an Allstate insurance agent.
The Doc U Cam II is built by MPD Companies, a Kentucky firm that has mounted 2,000 such cameras in police cars across the nation, according to Bod Gratz, a district sales manager.
Local politicians and Crofton officials were on hand Friday afternoon to accept the check.
The video camera will be installed in a marked police car within the next two weeks.
"We need to get drunk drivers off the road," said U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, D-5th, who attended the ceremony. "This will help Chief [Deborah] Bogush make convictions."
Several other police agencies in the state have video cameras in some cars, but most use the new technology sparingly.
Anne Arundel County police never have used cameras in their squad cars.
Lt. Gregory M. Shipley, a spokesman for the Maryland State Police, said troopers tried it in several cars two years ago, "but it wasn't continued."
Howard and Montgomery counties also abandoned experiments with the cameras because they were too big, said spokesmen in those departments.
Even worse, said Sgt. Harry E. Geehreng, of the Montgomery county force, an officer driving one of the few camera-equipped cars still on the force forgot to turn on his camera when he was involved in a chase two weeks ago.
"That's what they are touted for," Sergeant Geehreng said.
Mr. Gratz acknowledged that earlier models used in police cars were big and cumbersome.
But, he said, the new color models that will be used in Crofton are small and are no lower than the rear view mirror.
Also, the officer wears a microphone so the video unit can record his voice even when the officer is out of camera range.
Chief Bogush said she hasn't even thought of all the potential uses for the camera.
Not only will officers use it to record traffic stops, but also possibly to show residents at community meetings what her officers go through on the street and to help settle citizen complaints.