Dash cams placed in Fayetteville squad cars

Dash cam in a Fayetteville police cruiser

March 16, 2011 2:28:29 PM PDT
The Fayetteville Police Department has placed cameras in its squad cars less than one week after the NAACP and some community leaders voiced concerns about racial profiling.

Officer Jennifer Rodriguez says the new tool is unbiased.

"It's not intimidating at all," Officer Rodriguez said. "It's a tool for us and a benefit for us and the citizens, where it's an unbiased tool we can use to protect everyone involved."

The department is installing the digital cameras in 26 squad cars.

Last week in a public forum on community concerns about racial profiling, Police Chief Tom Bergamine defended his officers' stop and search procedures but said his officers would now be required to write down their reasons for making a traffic stop.

Tuesday a police department spokesperson called the camera installations a coincidence.

"They tested these cameras last October [and] November to see if it was what we wanted to use and how useful for us they would be," Gavin MacRoberts explained. "And they actually made the purchase in January."

The high tech system includes a hard drive in the squad car's trunk. Technicians say it starts recording when the car's blue lights and or siren come on.

The officer sees the video on his or her laptop. Some cars will have one camera and others like K-9 officers will have four cameras -- one pointing in each direction.

Fayetteville is one of several cities across the state that uses the new state of the art system. The department says the video camera will be part of the police package that comes with each new squad car.

"I think it's really useful because it protects not only the citizens, but also protects the officers," MacRoberts said.

Community activist Troy Williams, who was one of the first to raise questions of racial profiling, still questions the timing of the installation but says the cameras are a positive step in restoring the community's confidence in its police force.

The Fayetteville Police Department says the new dash cam system is now standard equipment on all new squad cars. Each systems costs about $5,500 per vehicle.

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