Belhaven police to begin using body cameras

Published 6:36 pm Wednesday, August 26, 2015

BELHAVEN — The Belhaven Board of Aldermen gave the go-ahead at Monday night’s meeting for the Belhaven Police Department to purchase body cameras for its officers.

Former interim town manager Steve Noble said he estimates the body camera system will cost the town about $26,700 over the course of five years.

Police chief F.P. Clingenpeel said the five-year contract for the cameras would include a total of 18 military-grade cameras and three docking stations, as well as a warranty, free upgrades and Cloud backup storage. It supplies the force with six cameras at a time, although the board was open to allowing the department to purchase eight cameras to cover all eight officers, the chief included.

“Every profession has its bad apples,” he said at the meeting. “I think it’ll increase the transparency of the agency. … All we have to do is go back and press play.”

Clingenpeel said he knows the cameras are an expensive proposition, but he thinks it will be worth it for the town in the long run.

As an officer goes into the field, he would be required to turn on the camera, and any video the camera records would be considered evidence, he said.

“There are a lot of benefits,” Clingenpeel said.

Noble said this contract is about $2,000 to $3,000 more expensive than another one the town was considering, but the other contract would have required the town to pay $14,000 up front.

Clingenpeel also said he thinks this contract will afford better cameras for his department.

Mayor Adam O’Neal said at the meeting he fully supports the idea of body cameras, viewing it as “necessary insurance” if the town were to encounter any disparity between accounts of a police operation.

“The chief is always vigilant,” he said. “This is a way to make sure … that we’ve got evidence.”

“I think it’ll make the exchange between police and public better.”

Clingenpeel said he hopes to have the body camera system enforced within a month.