Police decide on body camera provider

The Wilton Police Department has made its decision, and come April, people will start to see body cameras manufactured by VIEVU on patrol officers in their community.

The department had already decided to acquire the cameras last year when the purchase was approved for the full-reimbursement $12,000 Justice Assistance Grant  and it received a $5,000 donation from the Realty Seven Charitable Fund — $17,000 total.

What the department needed to do was decide who was going to get that money. During the last few months, police tested cameras from VIEVU, Taser, and Panasonic, before ultimately choosing VIEVU.

“VIEVU’s camera gave us everything we needed at less of an expense,” Wilton police Chief Robert Crosby told The Bulletin on Wednesday.

“We were looking for ease of use as well as quality,” he said. “For example, VIEVU’s has a slide button to turn it off and on.”

But VIEVU’s body-worn camera boasts another feature that Crosby said has the potential to paint a truer picture of police encounters.

“What I like about VIEVU is that their lens is made to the same specs as the human eye, so when I walk into, for example, a dark building, it sees what my human eyes see.”

Crosby said this is especially desirable because it would show what the officer saw exactly as he or she saw it. If there was poor visibility in the video, it would mean that when the video was taken, the officer likely couldn’t see very well either.

“We don’t want to enhance the video; we want to see what the officer sees,” Crosby said. “If it were enhanced, whoever’s watching the video might be able to tell, for example, what’s in the guy’s hand, but the officer might not have had such a clear view.”

According to Crosby, using the $17,000, his department bought 15 cameras and all the necessary software and accessories to make them work.

The town of Darien recently turned down a request from its police department for budget money to acquire body-worn cameras, because the Darien Board of Selectmen thought the price of archiving the footage was too steep.

The Wilton Police Department, on the other hand, has not yet requested any town money, and this, according to Crosby, is possible because of some forward thinking.

“When we got our in-car video, we thought for the future and bought a server big enough to handle all of our in-car video, plus footage from body-worn cameras,” Crosby said.

He added that unimportant footage gets deleted from the server every day, because it’s retained for only 90 days.

“We’ll be experimenting. If we find that we need to get more servers, we’ll seek out more grants, but we feel our system will be capable of handling both in-car and body-worn video,” Crosby said.

“We’re trying to do this without using town funds,” he said.

The only other potential annual cost is that of general maintenance, he continued. The cameras are guaranteed for now, so Crosby said his department won’t have to worry about it for fiscal year 2017.

“Next budget, we’ll probably have to look into some money for maintenance. You’re talking maybe $1,500 to $2,000 a year,” he said.