Body cameras prove useful for Butte police


Body cameras prove useful for Butte police

BUTTE, Mont. - The Butte-Silver Bow Sheriff's Department has been using body cameras for three months. While officials said they've proven useful, residents say they think they were a good investment.

To start recording, officers push a large round button on the front of the camera twice. The camera also records the 30 seconds before the button is pushed.

Wednesday, Officer Steve Honer used his body camera to show NBC Montana how the cameras work during a drug search by Blue the K-9 unit.

"To record right from the start of any incident or basically any interaction with the public, it gives us from the start to the finish of an incident rather than having somebody record us on a cellphone and maybe only choose to clip part of it that makes the police look bad," Butte-Silver Bow Sheriff Ed Lester said.

The video and sound on the body cameras are extremely clear. He said clarity can help in any case of dispute in court.

"We've had to use a hands-on tactic with a suspect with having these," Honer said. "It caught everything, whether it be the angle from my camera or the other officer's camera, several of us there, it got every angle, so when this goes to defense there's nothing to be doubted with it."

Residents told NBC Montana they feel safer because of the accountability it holds to everyone.

"It holds not only the officers but potential criminals or alleged criminals, it holds everyone accountable because video doesn't lie," said Butte resident Daniel Hutchison.

Butte resident Kehli Hazlett said, "I think that when people know they are on camera, they're less likely to hurt other people or to hurt the officers on duty."

With thousands of videos taken over the past three months of use, going through them all can be time consuming. Lester said they keep the videos they think may be of use in court in the future in case of any dispute over what happened or what was said.

The Butte-Silver Bow Sheriff's Department is using Taser brand body cameras that cost them $23,000. They also bought two servers for a total of $5,000. The total $28,000 was paid with $15,000 in donations from the public and a $13,000 grant from the Montana Department of Transportation.

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