DECATUR, GA -- The recent ambush killings of police in Dallas and Baton Rouge highlight the dangers faced by officers on the job. Now DeKalb County Police are gearing up to help protect themselves and the community they serve.
They are spending more than $700,000 on state-of-the-art body cameras from Decatur-based Utility, Inc., and the key word behind the purchase is transparency.
DeKalb County Officer Bertrant Jean says a new tool in his tool belt -- or on his chest, actually -- makes him feel safer on the streets.
"If I'm down, and I don't respond in a certain amount of time, it automatically notifies Dispatch with my exact location and position," he said.
The manufacturer says the cameras are user friendly. They are updated and maintained remotely by the manufacturer. Police have the ability to watch the cameras live.
Officer Jean has been testing one for the past few months, and he says he has noticed a difference.
"Them knowing that we have a body cam on, usually, it de-escalates the situation dramatically, in most circumstances," he said.
The cameras turn on automatically when an officer moves, recording both audio and video. But legally, police officers cannot record all of the time.
"When we enter a residence, we have to let them know we are wearing a body camera, and do we have permission to record their private residence -- we have to let them know that," Jean said.
Interim County CEO Lee May said he has been spending a lot of time talking with the public.
"People are excited about this opportunity," May said. "This isn't the end-all-be-all -- this is not going to stop bad or questionable shootings, but we have more info, more data that will allow the process to be more smoother, more transparent."
DeKalb County officials said they bought 600 of the high-tech body cameras. Officers are expected to begin wearing them in September.
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