Augusta, Georgia – Although some local law enforcement agencies have only started using body cameras, officers at Richmond County Schools have been using the devices for many years.
A total of 30 body cameras are currently being used by all of the officers in the Richmond County School System. Richmond County Board of Education Chief of School Safety Alfonzo Williams says the devices help maintain transparency because officers can turn them on when they interact with students or staff.
In 2009, an altercation recorded on a body camera between an officer and a student at The Academy of Richmond County ended with an officer being fired. Since then body camera video has been used by Richmond County Board of Education police during investigations and in officer training.
“We are certainly for the cameras,” said Chief Williams.
Chief Williams considers the body cameras, all School Safety Officers are required to wear, a useful tool for many reasons.
“Many times the officer isn’t able to see. If an officer is engaged in a stressful situation, maybe a physical altercation he may not be able to record the number of persons present. So in that situation it will be helpful to the officer to have that footage. It will be helpful to the officer to go back and review that footage so that he can file a more accurate report about what happened,” Chief Williams said.
Officers are encouraged to turn on the cameras when they are about to engage with students.
“So parents can rest assured that we won’t hide things, we won’t cover them up, we are going to have a record of it and that record is available to them,” said Chief Williams.
All recorded footage is public information and Williams strongly believes it’s much better to have the body cameras than to not.
“We realize cameras are not a 100 percent, they don’t show every angle, they don’t tell everything, but they certainly are more helpful than hurtful,” Chief Williams said.
When allegations are made against any officer, student, or faculty member the captured footage on the body cameras is an essential part of the puzzle.
“When there is a complaint made, we use it as an investigative tool. We bring it in, we take a look at it. If the officer is right we support him and if the camera shows that he is wrong then we use it punitively,” Chief Williams told News Channel 6.