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North Huntingdon OKs new cameras for police vehicles

By Rossilynne Skena Culgan
Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

North Huntingdon's fleet of police cars will soon be updated with new video cameras.

Township commissioners voted Wednesday to buy cameras to outfit 13 police cars and four police motorcycles, at a cost of about $45,000 to be paid over a span of three years.

Commissioners approved the Digital Ally cameras 5-0, with members Richard Gray and Donald Austin absent.

John Shepherd, township manager, said the vote formally commits the township to the cameras.

“It's a three-year lease, then after three years the cameras are ours,” Shepherd said. “It's really a financing arrangement ... It's like a lease to purchase.”

The financing agreement will save the township money, said police Chief Andrew Lisiecki, who described the department's current camera system as a “a hodgepodge of different cameras” that takes up room in the police cars.

The new, smaller system attaches to the car's rearview mirror. A microphone in the back of the car would record prisoner transportation, he said.

Lisiecki said he hopes to have the new system fully in use by late summer.

“It'll be the first time that we'll actually have wireless microphones for the officers when they go on a traffic stop or on citizen contact,” Lisiecki added.

The police department has already bought one camera, he said, which was used to test the system.

Departments using the system have given it positive reviews, Lisiecki said.

The system would come with a three-year warranty, and the company will train officers how to use the system. Footage would be stored on a flash drive.

“One of the advantages ... (the cameras) will help with frivolous complaints against police officers,” Lisiecki said. “No more he said-she said incidents.”

Since Lisiecki began his job as North Huntingdon chief in May 2012, he said the department has received two complaints of that nature.

Video footage could also be used in court proceedings, he said.

“As soon as you turn on emergency lights,” Lisiecki said. “The camera starts recording.”

Officers can also manually activate the equipment.

The department will put a policy in place to make sure officers know how to use the system.

Officers will let people know that they're being recorded, he said.

Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or rskena@tribweb.com.

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