Archive for Sunday, November 24, 2002

Department lags in video equipment

November 24, 2002

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Because of their concerns about the way Lawrence Police Department does some interrogations, members of the Douglas County Bar Assn. are urging the department to install video and audio recording devices in police vehicles to record interrogations.

âÂÂWhen disagreements come up over what happened, it makes sense to say, âÂÂ'Well, OK, letâÂÂs go to the video,âÂÂâ said defense attorney Elbridge âÂÂSkipâ Griffy. âÂÂBut in Lawrence, thereâÂÂs no video to go to - itâÂÂs he-said-she-said, unless there happened to be other witnesses around.âÂÂ

The Kansas Highway Patrol, Douglas County SheriffâÂÂs Department and Kansas UniversityâÂÂs police department all use video and audio recording equipment.

Olin said that until recently he had resisted installing video and audio equipment because of the cost - the units run about $5,000 per car, he said - and because they require an officer to position the police car squarely behind the vehicle thatâÂÂs been stopped.

For safety reasons, Olin said, Lawrence officers position their cars at an angle.

But in the coming weeks, Olin said, the departmentâÂÂs traffic unit will be getting seven new cars, each equipped with video and audio recorders.

âÂÂWeâÂÂll see how it works,â Olin said. Installing the equipment in all of the cars would be âÂÂcost prohibitive.âÂÂ

The traffic unit has a total of 23 cars.

Olin said officers did record some statements and confessions. But itâÂÂs impractical, he said, to record routine interviews and interrogations.

âÂÂWe conduct a huge number of interviews,â he said.

Olin said he doubted that adopting a written consent form, as has been requested by the Douglas County chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, would settle many disputes over an officerâÂÂs actions.

âÂÂI donâÂÂt think this would be of great value in helping us on the street,â he said.

Douglas County Dist. Atty. Christine Kenney said sheâÂÂd welcome access to video recordings of in-city traffic stops, and she thinks the consent forms would prove useful. But, she said, neither is required by law.

She declined comment on whether Lawrence police should use consent-to-search forms.

âÂÂThatâÂÂs a policy question,â Kenney said. âÂÂThatâÂÂs something that ought to be taken up with them.âÂÂ

Kenney said she thought the police were âÂÂdoing a great job.âÂÂ

Dave Teeter, marketing representative and spokesman for Kustom Signals Inc., one of the nationâÂÂs largest makers and sellers of police-car video equipment, said police did not have to park squarely behind a vehicle for the units to work.

âÂÂParking at an angle is a common practice,â Teeter said. âÂÂItâÂÂs not a problem, the cameras can be adjusted 180 degrees.âÂÂ

Low-end units, he said, sell for less than $4,000.

Teeter said the Lawrence Police Department was the only âÂÂhigh profileâ department in Kansas that didnâÂÂt already have in-car video equipment.

âÂÂKansas City and all the suburban departments, Wichita, Hutchinson, Salina - they all have them,â he said.

Other police departments that have resisted video recording devices. One of them is the Los Angeles Police Department, Teeter said.

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