THIBODAUX, LA (WAFB) - Police body cameras have gotten a lot of attention since the deadly shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. That department has since committed to getting body cams, but there are agencies in South Louisiana that already have them.
The Thibodaux Police Department provided body cam video from an April incident outside of a local nightclub. A suspect is tased after he's seen taking a swing at an officer. The chaotic scene is hard to describe in a police report, but the tone is captured perfectly on tape.
"As you can see, the noise, the movement, and the lighting are a major factor into any case that a police officer would deal with and you often can't put this on paper," Cpl. David Melancon said while watching the video.
Thibodaux Police have been using the cameras regularly since December and Melancon said they've helped diffuse confrontations and reduce excessive force complaints against officers.
"When people call to make a complaint because they're upset, and we say, ‘Ok we'll review the footage,' (they say) ‘Ok we no longer want to file a complaint.' They withdraw that complaint. I think across the board it's just a good accountability tool," he said.
Houma Police Chief Todd Duplantis is in the process of distributing 84 body cameras acquired last month after unanimous approval from the parish council.
"It locks into the officer's shirt and all they have to do to initiate is just hit a button," he said during a demonstration.
His department chose to get rid of expensive dash cams and buy body cams from the TASER company at $300 a piece.
"The money that we were going to utilize for seven in-car cameras we were able to purchase every officer a body camera," Duplantis said. "It can save a huge amount of money. One lawsuit can cost this department what these body cameras cost us."
Video clips are automatically uploaded through a docking station and are stored on secure servers operated by TASER. They can then be accessed by investigators and prosecutors. The council also approved a five-year plan to use TASER's software, replacing $12,000 of existing software used by the department.
One problem with body cameras is officers forgetting to turn them on in the heat of the moment. That's been an issue for New Orleans police, according to a report released this week.