More Central Florida police agencies using body cameras

Technology records crime scenes in real time

Author: Matt Papaycik, Producer, mpapaycik@wkmg.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 02:56:33 AM EST   Updated On: Aug 13 2013 07:47:28 AM EDT
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -

Crime scenes can be chaotic, and every piece of evidence helps. But now, more law enforcement agencies have a new tool to catch criminals -- small, lightweight body cameras that record video in real-time.

Back in March, one of those cameras recorded Daytona Beach police officers storming into an apartment and catching a man choking his girlfriend.

Also in March, officers at University of Central Florida had a body camera rolling as they rushed into an apartment and discovered the body of a man that they say was plotting to attack students.

From chases to traffic stops to arson investigations, cops are recording in real-time with this device.

"The camera is like an extra set of eyes for the officer," says Officer Donald Rininger with the Daytona Beach Police Department. "Technology is always changing, and it's always improving. If used properly, it can only help us."

Officer Rininger has run the body camera program for Daytona Beach police since it started last August.

They're the latest agency in Central Florida to use the technology -- joining Sanford and UCF Campus Police.

It's three parts -- a small controller, wire, and the camera itself, which is fitted onto your sunglasses or collar.

Officer Rininger says one of the goals of using these is to hold cops more accountable, and keep them from crossing the line.

"You have the video actually from the time of the incident and not just the officer's hearsay," says Officer Rininger. "Officers who are equipped with cameras, their use of forces are lower."

The statistics back that up. According to a new study by Cambridge University, agencies who used these cameras cut their excessive force complaints in half over the course of a year.

But for everybody else, the big issue is protecting the public. Officer Rininger says this technology gives police evidence they couldn't get before.

"We're actually able to use it to place the people who are doing the criminal activities in jail, if we capture them on the actual videos," says Officer Rininger. "The technology itself can be used to solve crimes."

One of those crimes is that domestic violence incident in Daytona Beach, back in March. The footage put the suspect at the scene, leading 35-year-old Jeremy Archer to plead guilty to battery.

"You cannot dispute the video evidence of something being there at the time," says Officer Rininger. "We're able to get a better conviction rate and keeping criminals off the street."

Right now, Daytona Beach police have 22 body cameras, with another 28 on the way.

Officer Rininger tells us that the goal is to eventually get one for every patrol officer -- which would make more than 100 total.

The equipment isn't cheap. We're told that each camera costs around $1,000. Most of that is paid for with money seized during drug raids, or from other illegal activities.