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Updated: 04/17/2014 08:00:02AM

LP police now wearing video cameras

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Small, lightweight video camera are now a part of the uniform for Lake Placid police officers.

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Advances in technology have made many common items smaller, lighter and easier to use. Those advances are reflected in a new tool for Lake Placid police: video cameras designed to be worn as a part of their uniform.

Taser’s “Axon Body” camera is intended to supplement in-car video systems already in use by local police, according to Police Chief James Fansler.

The compact single-piece video units attach directly to police uniforms in hopes of eliminating a limitation of in-car video systems: In-car video cameras capture only about 10 percent of what happens, Fansler said, especially if the officer steps out of the line of sight of the camera for any reason. With an on-body camera, officers will be able to capture nearly 100 percent of the encounter.

The cameras only record when the officer turns on the recorder at the beginning of an encounter, said Lake Placid Police Chief James Fansler.

The LPPD now has two cameras that cost $300 each. Plans call for the purchase of three more. The cameras sare purchased with money generated from CPR and basic first aid classes offered by the police department, and from donations from the public.

Fansler said he believes the cameras will save money by providing evidence that may mean fewer challenges in court which would free up officers from having to sit in court and reduce prosecution costs.

The chief said it is not uncommon for bystanders to use cellphone cameras to record incidents involving police and civilians, ranging from arrests to simple conversations. That often leads to only dramatic footage being recorded or saved. The new cameras could provide a more complete picture of those encounters “that may show that officers conducted themselves in a professional manner,” Fansler said.

The mere presence of the camera should improve the behavior of all participants during police encounters, Fansler wrote in a press release.

The body cameras have already proven useful. A late night burglary call was made easier when the officer turned on an infrared mode on the camera. The officer recorded as he made his way through the dark building, provide a clear image in the dark conditions.

Lake Placid police are the first in the county to wear the body cameras. Officials with the Sebring Police Department and the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office said the body cameras might be considered in the future but, for now, they are watching how the cameras are put to use in Lake Placid.

Fansler said there is no intent to be secretive about the cameras. Guidelines are being developed to determine when officers should use the cameras and how police can protect the privacy of people inadvertently caught on camera.

Anyone interested in seeing the Axon Body camera or learning more about the system is welcome to visit the Lake Placid Police Department to view and discuss them. Fansler is also asking feedback from the public at lakeplacid