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November 16, 2007
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Utah police to have cameras, microphones pinned to uniforms

By Nate Carlisle
The Salt Lake Tribune

AMERICAN FORK, Utah Bad boy, bad boy, whatcha' gonna' do, whatcha' gonna' do when American Fork police come for you?

The police here may not see all the violence and hijinks captured in a "Cops" episode, but they are more wired. The American Fork Police Department claims to be the first law enforcement agency in the country to outfit all of its officers with video cameras and microphones pinned to their uniform.

"We've been waiting. We've been looking for something like this to document the good work that police officers do," said American Fork police Lt. Sam Liddiard.

The cameras, which double as the officers' portable walkie-talkies, record about three hours of video. They record an area as wide as a household video recorder and require about as much light as does the human eye.

They have been in use in American Fork for about three months and already have collected evidence in perhaps hundreds of crimes, Liddiard said.

The cameras are manufactured by the Spanish Fork company called EHS. Its owners, the Marshall family, also operate the headphones supplier EarHugger.

Mike Marshall, EHS vice president for sales, said one day he came up with an idea to put audio recorders in police officers' shoulder radios. Then his father said to add a video recorder, Marshall said. Then Marshall asked if a still camera could be placed on the radio, too.

As EHS was finishing development of the cameras, the American Fork police chief began looking for a better ways to record incidents in his community. EHS let American Fork test some cameras and soon the department purchased one for each of the 33 officers at a cost of $700 each.

Marshall said American Fork was the first agency to buy the cameras, but others have followed. About 80 police agencies have purchased cameras since the summer. The Kane County Sheriff's Office recently bought 14 cameras, Marshall said.

"I don't think we've expected [the response] to be as high as it's been," Marshall said.

Liddiard declined to discuss any incidents in which the cameras were recording, and declined to say whether the cameras captured evidence in the Nov. 2 fight on the football field between American Fork and Hunter high schools. None of the cases with camera footage has yet gone to court, Liddiard said, though both he and Marshall believe the video will be admissable as evidence, just as footage from cameras in police cars have been admitted.

Besides helping prove crimes, Liddiard thinks it also will help adjudicate complaints against police officers.

"It's just indisputable evidence," Liddiard said.

Copyright 2007 The Salt Lake Tribune

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