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North Huntingdon police cars to add cameras

| Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

North Huntingdon police plan to equip each of their vehicles with digital video and audio recorders.

The township commissioners approved Chief Andrew Lisiecki's plan to install the digital video and audio systems for 13 police cars and four motorcycles from Digital Ally of Lenexa, Kan., for $44,990, which will be paid over the course of three years.

The department has 14 cars and one of the camera systems in service, Lisiecki said.

The camera systems will be mounted in the cars' rearview mirrors and the motorcycles' handlebars, Lisiecki said.

The audio system equips officers with microphones in their cars and wireless microphones to wear when approaching a suspect, Lisiecki said.

The recording system automatically begins when an officer turns on the vehicle's emergency lights or can be started manually, he said.

“One of the advantages we've seen across the country is video and audio help refute frivolous complaints against police officers,” Lisiecki said. “It gives us evidence, which will either confirm or deny incidents, and get rid of the ‘he-said,' ‘she-said' type of incidents.”

The video and audio recordings stand in court, and can be subpoenaed to use as evidence, he added.

Manager John Shepherd said the commissioners had discussed audio recordings in the past, but the topic stalled due to concerns over the legality of audio recordings.

When approaching people, Lisiecki said, officers will let them know they are being recorded. Department officials are in the process of developing policies and procedures for the new system, he added.

Currently, the department has several different types of camera systems mounted in the cars.

“It's a real hodgepodge of cameras, and some of the officers don't even know how to use them,” Lisiecki said. “Some of them are so old they still use VHS cassette tapes.”

Digital Ally plans to send representatives to the department to conduct training sessions, Lisiecki said.

Lisiecki said police Sgt. David Sage plans to install the cameras for the department and expects all of them to be in service by the end of summer.

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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