Police officers in Sunbury soon could be using state-of-the-art miniature video cameras to record everything from traffic stops to the handling of criminal complaints such as domestic violence calls.
Police Chief Pat Bennett told Village Council members Wednesday, May 15, that his officers are completing a 30-day trial using the Axon Flex Camera, which is made by Taser.
He showed council members video clips of several recent incidents in Sunbury, including a DUI traffic stop and a car speeding 30 miles over the posted 25 mph limit.
The village used to have dash-mounted video cameras in its cruisers, as many police departments do, but those broke down after several years. Cruisers have not had dash-mounted units in six years. Such units cost between $4,000 and $5,000 each, Bennett said.
The Axon cameras cost $1,000 each and can be attached to eyewear, police ball caps and other parts of a police uniform. The small cameras also have audio.
"I want to go back to video cameras," Bennett told council members. "It's a great asset. It's just about accountability."
That accountability includes both a police officer's conduct as well as a detailed document of a suspect's actions, he said.
"We have a 30-day free trial. We're just kind of presenting this (tonight)," the chief said.
"I was excited when I saw this," Mayor Tommy Hatfield told council members of a preview he had from the chief. "This is really cool technology."
Village Solicitor David Brehm said the cameras could prove helpful in prosecuting cases.
"They say pictures are worth a thousand words, and a lot of times they are," Brehm said.
Taser has a special offer at the end of June that could allow the village to receive eight cameras and associated equipment free, Bennett said.
If Village Council approves the deal, the police department would have to sign a two-year agreement with Taser to use the company's evidence.com website to upload videos. All videos would be stored on the site and could be retrieved for future use.
The first year of the agreement would be at no cost, while the second year would run $9,000, Bennett said after the meeting. Costs associated with setting up the video program and installing software would run about $3,300 in the first year.
Bennett told council members that eight cameras, each with 12 hours of data-storage time, would enable the village to cover all police shifts each day.
"Personally, I'd like to go out into the community and see if we can get some grant money" to help pay for costs, the chief said.
Hatfield asked Bennett to come back to a June council meeting to update village officials and to recommend a decision to council. Sunbury has nine full-time officers, including Bennett, and eight part-timers.
The father of a Boy Scout who wants to undertake a costly youth service project to earn his Eagle Scout award told council members his son has raised enough money for the project.
Zac Moore, who could not attend the May 15 meeting, wants to put in a 50-foot-long, 8-foot-wide pre-fabricated pedestrian bridge over Prairie Run Creek, just north of the state Route 37 bridge.
Moore previously told council members that the lack of a pedestrian bridge is a safety issue, as people walk along the berm of the road bridge when they are going to the nearby local cemetery or to Sunbury United Methodist Church, of which he is a member.
The pedestrian bridge, which would cost about $23,000, would be placed over the creek, just north of the highway bridge. Once installed, the bridge would be given to the village.
The project ran into a roadblock April 17 when village officials estimated the cost of such a project, including putting in abutments for the bridge and connector sidewalks to existing ones along Route 37, could be as high as $76,000.
Moore's father, Bill, and Bob Rogers, a local general contractor who has offered his services for free, said the teen has now raised $45,000, much of it through recent anonymous donations.
Rogers estimated that should be enough money for the project, with additional costs covered through in-kind contributions. He said he could handle the bidding process for the bridge project.
Brehm said since the bridge would be given to the village, its construction, as well as bids for the project, would have to meet all state and local laws.
Hatfield told Bill Moore and Rogers that he and other village officials need to have a meeting with them and Zac to try to finalize the project.
"It's good news that Zac has received additional funding ... Nobody up here wants to be part of the bridge-prevention team," the mayor said. "But we have rules and laws we have to follow. I appreciate what he's done. We'll get it worked out."