Caught on video

TALENT — Body cameras worn by all eight city police officers now record contacts with the public in a society that's seemingly used to having itself captured by digital media. "I think it's great," said Sgt. Jennifer Snook of the Talent Police Department. "The body camera goes where we go. With the camera which you wear you are able to see inside cars. It's a better documentation of what we see on patrol." Use of the Axon camera began two months ago when the manufacturer, Taser, offered them for free if the town agreed to store the video and audio on the firm's servers, said Police Chief Mike Moran. Talent has used dash mounted cameras in two patrol cars previously. Recordings can be used as evidence in court, to settle disputes about interactions with individuals and to help officers complete incident reports, said Moran. The cameras already showed their value when one officer was accused of not handing a document to a subject. The video clearly showed the item was delivered while the audio included the officer's explanation of what he was doing. "That cleaned that one up pretty quickly," said Moran. State law requires officers to inform people they are being videoed. But the subjects can't demand that the recordings be stopped, said Moran. "We don't get very much feedback about (being recorded). This is the way the world is now. Everything is on video," said Snook. "I think it's just better for us to have a tool." The units are about the size of a flip phone — 3.3 inches high, 2.6 inches wide and eight-tenths of an inch thick. They can attach to uniform shirt or belt, or be put in stationary positions such as rear view mirrors on patrol cars. The camera has a 30-second buffer that retains images for recording even before the record button is pushed. Moran said if he witnessed a traffic accident he could record the previous 30 seconds. Cameras can record from four to 13 hours, depending on image quality. The lens takes in a 130-degree view. The city will pay $2,600 for video storage this year and Moran expects that to increase by about $200 next year. Officers can review what they have recorded, but don't have the capability to erase or edit the content. Designated supervisors have authority over what is retained and deleted. Videos with no apparent evidentiary value will be kept for six months per state regulation. "It's also handy in accurately recording an event. In the heat of an intense situation you are going to focus on certain things," said Moran. "When you do your report, you may see something (in the video) you don't recall at that point." Only a couple area departments have body cameras. Ashland police currently have two Axon cameras for evaluation and testing. Medford officers do not have body cameras. Jackson County Sheriff's Lt. Marty Clark said the department now uses dash cams in patrol cars. He said he would like to have body cameras but cost would be an obstacle with about 40 units required. Central Point police have used several different types of body camera systems for nearly six years, said Lt. Scott Logue. "We have found the systems very beneficial," Logue said. Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at

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