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DeWitt County Technology In The Spotlight

Updated: Wednesday, August 20 2014, 05:40 PM CDT
DEWITT COUNTY - Perhaps one of the most frustrating issues from the situation in Ferguson is that we will never fully know what happened that night.

But, if the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown was wearing a special piece of equipment, we'd certainly have a better picture of what took place.

Recent events in Ferguson, Missouri have spurred talks about officers wearing cameras, but here in DeWitt County, they've already been using that technology for over a year.

"The door here you slide it down, it starts recording, and when we're done recording we push it back up and it turns off," said Mike Walker, Chief Deputy, DeWitt County.

DeWitt County Sheriff's deputies and correctional officers are the only ones in central Illinois using body cameras. The technology comes with benefits but, the system isn't perfect.

The State's Attorney has advised deputies to ask subjects for permission to record the situation, unless it's a traffic stop, when dash cams are already recording.

"The benefit of it is that we get a true and accurate depiction of what has happened when you're somewhere, If we go to the scene we turn this on, they give us permission to record what's happening then we have an accurate description of what happens," Walker said.

The cameras cost the county around $30,000, money well spent according to Walker who says the evidence from the cameras has already been used to prevent a lawsuit.

"We had an inmate in the jail who was complaining he had shoulder pain. Shortly after he went to the nurse and complained about the shoulder pain and he wasn't getting the treatment he needed, one of our correctional officers about 10 to 15 minutes later observed him doing push-ups in one of our pods and she recorded him doing that," Walker said.

Privacy advocates don't like the idea of recording people, but for residents of DeWitt County who are watching what's happening in Ferguson on tv, the benefits outweigh any concerns.

"I think that the more protection for our officers the better. There wouldn't be any question of what happened. I also think that it would be easier for the attorneys, there would be a lot more evidence, so I think it's a really good idea," said Denise Torbert, Clinton resident.

"It seems like a good idea to me because there's never a question about what happens if you have it on video," said Vicki Holland, Wapella resident.

The DeWitt County Sheriff's office tells us they haven't had any negative experiences with the cameras yet.

Dewitt County officials hope the General Assembly will address the ruling over the eavesdropping law, so they can record all of their interactions without permission. DeWitt County Technology In The Spotlight


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