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ICSO patrol vehicles get new audio, video equipment
The patrol vehicles in Winterhaven now have an extra set of “eyes and ears” to aid officers in the field.
All of the Imperial County Sheriff's Office patrol vehicles have been equipped with audio and video recording devices. They did not have any recording equipment previously.
The surveillance system records “any enforcement action that we take and will help us with evidence for court in any enforcement contact crime, call for service or traffic stop,” said ICSO Lt. Scott Sheppeard.
In addition to capturing evidence, the equipment “also gives the community peace of mind that the deputy sheriffs are doing the right thing, and will hopefully reduce citizen complaints in our area,” Sheppeard noted.
The equipment is always on during a duty shift, and can begin recording automatically or manually.
It automatically activates when the light bar on the vehicle is turned on during transit to an emergency call or during a traffic stop.
“When the light bar is activated, the camera automatically records back 30 seconds prior to capture either somebody running a stop sign, or maybe a license plate that is expired or any violation of state law,” Sheppeard said.
The recording equipment can be manually turned on when the deputy pushes a button in the vehicle, or activates the mobile audio recorder they now wear on their utility belt.
The mobile devices can transmit audio back to the recording device in the vehicle up to a distance of 1,200 feet, Sheppeard said. That means even if a deputy is out of sight of the dash camera, or inside of a residence or business, the equipment will still be able to record the audio of any incident they are involved in.
The mobile devices will also be useful at the two casinos in the area, which already have video recording equipment but no way to capture audio, Sheppeard added.
“We've always had the video service... but we've never had audio. With this device we will now have both. We will be able to put the audio with the video and have a real good idea of what took place and how it happened.”
The recordings are automatically uploaded to a central server at the ICSO substation in Winterhaven when a vehicle returns from the field.
“Every time a patrol vehicle pulls into the station, all the video recordings automatically download through wi-fi and are stored on the server for up to a year,” Sheppeard said.
“Anything that's going to be a criminal prosecution or a citizen complaint will be recorded onto a DVD that we'll retain until the disposition on those cases is obtained.”
The video can also be viewed by ICSO administration in El Centro within minutes of being downloaded by the server.
If the sheriff wants to view a recent incident, “with the click of a mouse he can watch the video footage that just happened 10 minutes prior,” Sheppeard said. “It is all done through the Internet, but through confidential, secure links, just like we would run to check for warrants or people's driver's license and license plate statuses.”
The central server, the audio equipment, and the cameras, which were placed in all seven ICSO vehicles that patrol the Winterhaven area, cost about $65,000. About $49,000 of that came from the California State Distribution Fund.
Each year, Native American tribes who operate casinos in California pay into the distribution fund, which is then available through grants to public safety and public transportation organizations whose jurisdiction includes casinos.
The remainder of the price of the equipment was paid for by ICSO and assets attained from the seizure of vehicles, money and other items confiscated in Imperial Valley during illegal drug investigations.
Chris McDaniel can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6849.