November 26, 2014

Missoula Law Enforcement Uses Body Cameras

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MISSOULA - The parents of slain teen Michael Brown, as well as attorneys and civil rights leaders suggest a new law be created, requiring all police officers in every city to wear video body cameras. While this idea is getting attention in light of the shooting, it's not a new one. All of Missoula's law enforcement agencies already use them.The cameras may look small, but Montana Highway Patrol Troopers say their effective.
"It's an officer discretion thing if they want to use them or not, it's not required policy, but more of a tool we use that gives more evidence," said MHP Captain James Kitchin.
About half of Montana Highway Patrol districts started using body cameras two years ago through funding from the DUI Task Force.
Not only are the cameras used to show how an officer handles a situation, but Kitchin says the cameras come into play most often in providing evidence in DUI cases.
"It gives a view of what we see when we're actually talking to a driver. When you get someone passed out behind a wheel, you might not get a judge or juror or attorney to see that.”
The Missoula County Sheriff's Office and Missoula Police Department also use these cameras.
"It's another step towards more, better technology. The idea of wearing body cameras is not new, and its one we're delving in at the time," said Missoula Police Sgt. Travis Welsh.
The sheriff's office has had about a dozen for some time and is looking into purchasing updated ones. The police department has less than 20 cameras patrol officers started using within the last year.
"Officers conduct investigations every day. Any activity an officer gets in, they can prove to be valuable," Welsh said of the cameras.
Right now the cameras are evenly distributed to officers out patrolling the town.
“We're looking to get more, but it's going to be a process," Welsh said.
A year-long study by the national group, the Police Foundation, found wearing cameras was associated with dramatic reductions in use-of-force and complaints against officers.


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The acronyms DUI, DWI, OMVI and OVI all refer to the same thing: operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The most commonly used terms are DUI, an acronym for Driving Under the Influence, and DWI, an acronym for Driving While Impaired.
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