Gunter police: body cameras benefit officers, jurors

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GUNTER, Texas -- The Gunter Police Department has used on-body cameras for just over a month now, and Chief Bryce Kennedy says the new tools are extremely beneficial both on the streets and in a courtroom.

"They're outstanding. They're getting evidence for us for cases that likely we wouldn't have," Kennedy said.

The department, which has five full-time officers and two reserve officers, purchased a total of four cameras.

Kennedy says any officer on the street will always be equipped with a camera, now.

The cameras, which are listed at a price of $299 on TASER International's website, were purchased with the Gunter PD's seizure money.

"Which is money that we seize for felony offenses -- drug money, proceeds bought with drug money," Kennedy explained.

The idea to buy the cameras came from a Gunter police sergeant, who heard about how other departments across the United States were benefiting from the cameras.

"They're just a way for us to invest in officer safety, take correctional action on an officer if the needs be, or exonerate an officer from a complaint," Kennedy said.

In addition, the cameras serve as an evidence collector and the footage can be used in court.

In the past, like many other departments, Gunter relied on dash cam footage for video evidence.

The problem with dash cams, however, is that they don't capture what happens out of the view of the front of the car. They do, however, record audio from a speaker located on the officer's body.

But now the body cams, Kennedy said, virtually serve as the eyes of the officer during the offense or public interaction.

In one recent case on June 21, Gunter police recorded a traffic stop during which the officer on scene reportedly notices marijuana on the pants of a man in the backseat of a car.

"So he takes him out of the car, he detains him, he searches him, takes him back to his car and asks him where the marijuana is and he initially denies having nay then eventually confesses that he's hiding a bag of it in his mouth," Kennedy explains.

Then, the body camera captures the man spitting out the alleged bag of marijuana into a tissue the officer holds up (SEE VIDEO).

Grayson County Assistant District Attorney Britton Brooks says it's cases like these that prove how useful the cameras are.

"I know that jurors will be thankful to have this, both when making a decision to convict a person charged with a crime and for protecting police from allegations from defendants," Brooks said.

Brooks supports the idea so much, he said he hopes cameras will some day become a common tool for all Grayson Co. departments.

"The more evidence that we can give a jury, the better," he said.

Kennedy tells News 12 the body camera footage is stored for 90 days unless it's marked as evidence or otherwise.

When it comes to policy, officers are required to turn on the camera during any public interaction and could face disciplinary action if it's turned off prematurely.

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