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Law enforcement body cameras to provide better accountability

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EL PASO, Texas - Just two days after a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, civil rights groups are looking for a way to hold police officers accountable when they are on the job. They believe that body cameras may be the solution.

"We think that it is a win-win situation for both the officer and person who is encountering the officer to have a video recording of the encounter," said Vicki Gaubeca from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The El Paso County Sheriff's Department has already begun to give body cameras to its motorcycle officers.

"It covers not just the officer but the citizen as well because the encounter is recorded," said SGT Christopher Paz of the El Paso Sheriff's Department.

Meanwhile, the Dona Ana County Sheriff's Office is testing out different cameras for future use.

"Being a police officer is one of the most scrutinized professions known to man. Deputies are constantly being evaluated, they're constantly being criticized for everything they do," says Kelly Jameson, the Public Information Officer for the Dona Ana County Sheriff's Office.

"Often there is an encounter between an officer and an individual and it turns into a case of he said she said," Gaubeca said.

Recording and storing police encounters could protect both the officer and the civilian by clearing up the facts.

One of the biggest manufacturers of body cameras is Taser. The company reports that its Axon cameras have spiked in sales over the past year. As of the third quarter of 2014, Axon body cameras bookings grew 35% sequentially and nearly tripled year over year. The company says body cameras reduced false complaints by 87.5% in Rialto, CA and decreased use of force by 59%.

However, there are hurdles police departments must face with this new technology.

"What the camera picks up isn't always what the officer is looking at. I mean if you have them on your glasses and you walk into a dark room and you put your glasses on your head, the camera is pointing up," Jameson said.

Storage space is also an issue.

"We're talking about a tremendous amount of storage space that we need to find that we currently don't have right now. We need to figure out how we would save that, where we would save that and how those files are backed up," Jameson said.

Paz points out that the cameras are also limited in size.

"It's good but it does have its limitations. You do have a recording life you do have how much room is left on the drive itself, on the recording drive, and then there's the way it sits on the uniform."

Cost is also a major factor. Individual cameras can cost between $200 and $1,000 and require upkeep. For that reason, Jameson says the Dona Ana County Sheriff's Office likely won't but these devices in the near future.

"This body worn camera issue just isn't up there on the list of our priorities right now. It is something we are looking at and it is something that inevitable will be part of this department but it's not in the foreseeable future," Jameson said.

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