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HLPD squads equipped with irrefutable witness

February 4, 2008

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

Protecting the protectors has become increasingly important, especially in police work, which is what the Howard Lake Police Department’s new in-squad video cameras provide, and more.

Howard Lake officers work alone along the busy Highway 12 corridor and surrounding area. This corridor has been one of the deadliest in Wright County for the year 2007, according to Howard Lake Police Chief Dan Lang.

While the cameras do not offer physical protection, they can protect the city, the officers, and the citizens against false accusations about what actually took place during a stop while recording both the officers’ and suspects’ actions.

The new cameras were installed in Howard Lake squads about two weeks ago and feature the latest technology for such devices.

Not only footage and sound from in front of the squad can be recorded, but also inside the squad, which can support the officer’s decision to arrest an unruly or questionable individual.

The camera can also zoom in on the license plate of a vehicle that the squad is struggling to catch.

“The cameras are a great tool,” Howard Lake Police Officer Darek Szczepanik said. “It’s good for evidence and litigation. The biggest thing these days are officers being accused of some pretty rotten things. With these cameras, it eliminates questions about what happened – they can watch for themselves,” Szczepanik said.

For example, with the back seat camera, action such as someone pounding their head on the cage inside the car during transport can be taped and shown that the resulting injury was self-inflicted and not officer-induced, Szczepanik explained.

Footage taped during a DWI stop can reveal just how impaired an individual was that night, eliminating a debate between whose story to believe, the driver or the officer.

It will save countless hours on cases and courtroom testimony, according to Lang.

“It protects the city, the officers, and the citizens. It’s irrefutable,” Lang said.

In addition to documenting stops, the footage can be used for training purposes.

“We can show the videos to new officers, and we can learn from them by criticizing what could have been done better,” Szczepanik said.

The camera is mounted inside the squad’s windshield and its footage is displayed on part of the rear-view mirror. A memory card is inserted into the mirror, which houses some of the camera’s components, and is periodically removed and downloaded.

These video cameras can handle a wide variety of applications such as mapping, tracking, and GPS location.

The police department is extremely happy with the cameras’ performance and has already started to file footage.

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