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Police to Test Lapel Cameras

August 15, 2002
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Police to Test Lapel Cameras

The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Police plan to test tiny television cameras worn on their lapels, technology that authorities hope could deter attacks on officers.

"My hope is to make the public aware that if you do something to a police officer, your picture is going to be on national TV in a matter of minutes," said Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.

The county will test the two cameras on officers patrolling housing projects. Zappala said he is buying one of the cameras with drug forfeiture money and a security systems specialist will donate the other $420 camera system.

Lee W. Elter II, president of Eltech Co., in Hampton Township, said three police departments, which he wouldn't identify, already use the lapel cameras. The cameras will send a picture back 1,000 feet along a line of sight outdoors or 450 feet indoors, to a receiver in a patrol car, a substation or headquarters where it is recorded.

"It's about time the police have access to the type of technology that drug dealers can afford," Elter said.

"We have a lot of police officers assigned to the Allegheny County housing sites to provide additional protection to the residents. They're putting their lives on the line on a daily basis. It's time that they are protected for a change," said Mike Vogel, chief of investigative services with the Allegheny County Housing Authority.

Vogel and Zappala said they discussed the use of the cameras after a police officer in neighboring Beaver County was killed execution-style in March 2001.

The cameras could play an important role in cases of domestic violence, where police officers are frequently placed at risk of death or injury, Zappala said.

Recording a victim in a domestic violence case would prevent the need to have the complaint repeated, taking the focus off the victim in a volatile situation, Zappala said.

Zappala also said police departments that have videotaping equipment in cruisers to record traffic stops have "almost eliminated civil rights claims" against officers.

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