- Associated Press - Monday, December 8, 2014

ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) - Ferguson, Missouri, was in a state of upheaval after a grand jury recently declined to indict a city police officer in the shooting death of an unarmed man.

But technology, like that used by the Aberdeen Police Department, could have provided an unbiased view of the Ferguson incident, according to Aberdeen’s police chief.

Conflicting testimony made it difficult to understand exactly what happened on the August day when officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson. In the wake of events following the grand jury’s decision, Wilson has resigned.

In a statement following the recent grand jury decision, Brown’s family asked for legislation requiring officers to wear body cameras. Last Monday, President Barack Obama proposed a three-year, $263 million spending package to increase the use of body-worn cameras. Obama’s proposal includes $75 million to help pay half the cost of 50,000 lapel-mounted cameras for law enforcement agencies.

The lapel cameras are one of two options for officers. Other cameras, like the ones used here in Aberdeen for the past four years, are attached to a clip that fits over the officer’s ear, the Aberdeen American News (https://bit.ly/1vlokIH ) reported.

Aberdeen Police Chief Dave McNeil said the department is pretty unique in its use of the equipment, which has proven to be a great tool for local officers.

“How much could have been avoided if a body camera would have been worn?” he wondered, reflecting on the chaos in Ferguson.

Aberdeen landed an agreement with the Taser Corp. because the company wanted to find a department that could test its equipment in a cold weather environment, he said. The Axon cameras record video and audio. The disadvantage of the lapel-style cameras, McNeil said, is that they can get unintentionally obscured by the officer. Lapel cameras also might not capture everything the officer sees.

“We think our product is better,” McNeil said. “It moves where the officer looks and where he’s focused.”

There are definite advantages in using body cameras, he said.

“From an evidence standpoint, you have from when he arrives to when he leaves and it captures everything that was said and the things the officer experienced,” he said.

McNeil said attorneys are also able to review the video to see how things transpired, and officers are able to review the video to see how they handled the situation.

In a society where the public is able to take video on smart phones and businesses have video surveillance, McNeil said, having video footage of officer interactions is an expectation.

“I think society in general expects to see the evidence,” he said. “They expect video.”

Video that’s recorded by officers is downloaded digitally to a secure server outside of Aberdeen. McNeil said no manipulation or tampering can take place during that process.

“There’s an incredible amount of security and encryption,” he said.

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Information from: Aberdeen American News, https://www.aberdeennews.com

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