ST. GEORGE, Utah - Police officers in St. George will now be recording interactions with citizens, as the department began issuing body cameras this week to each of its uniformed officers.
St. George Police Department isn’t the first to issue body cameras, but it’s the largest in Washington County to do so. The city purchased 70 cameras, which they have been planning to do for more than a year.
Sgt. Sam Despain said they’ve been setting aside the close to $42,000 needed to buy the cameras.
“I think this is just the wave of the future for police work,” Despain said. “This is just going to be a standard piece of equipment.”
The value of body camera footage has already been proven in other agencies. Officers use the video to review how situations were handled, as evidence in criminal investigations and to document encounters.
“We think that this is going to make our officers better,” Despain said. “That we can better serve the community, to have this footage available to us.”
Body cameras differ from agency to agency, depending on which ones they buy. A unique feature of the St. George body cameras is a wireless capability. That means any video shot out on the streets is automatically transmitted to a backup at the station.
Currently five out of the seven law enforcement agencies in Washington County use body cameras regularly. The other two have them ordered. Santa Clara-Ivins PD was among the first to purchase body cameras for their officers. Officer Chad Holt said they recognized it as a valuable tool in transparency and accountability.
“It’s just been a great tool added to our belt that really does a lot of benefit,” Holt said. “The public wants to know more about what we’re doing, and we want to be able to provide that for them.”
The acquisition of cameras by the St. George Police Department coincides with the start of recently passed legislation that requires agencies with body cameras to use them during specific incidents, like serving warrants. Despain said they anticipate policies to require officers to record all encounters with citizens.