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Oxford Police investing in new body cams, other technology

When the Oxford Police Department began using body cameras, they were probably ahead of the curve, but when it came the most up-to-date technology, they were not.

With body cameras becoming the most important piece of equipment on an officer’s uniform, OPD knew they had to keep up with the times. OPD recently entered into a five-year agreement with Axon to supply officers with new body cameras, in-car cameras and tasers. The agreement was approved by the Board of Aldermen during their Sept. 17 meeting.

“As we grew as a department, we realized we’ve got to get something more adaptable for us,” interim police chief Jeff McCutchen said. “It’s great for us, but it’s also reassurance to your community that they’re able to help hold us accountable. It’s also great evidence in the field. It’s great for an attorney, it’s great for our prosecutors and our judges to be able to look and say, ‘I can see what you saw.'”

Being a National Police Academy graduate, McCutchen and other OPD officers contacted members of their respective graduating classes to seek input. They received feedback from the Los Angeles Police Department, New York Police Department and officers in other major cities.

Once they received feedback, McCutchen said he narrowed it down to Axon and one other company. In the spring, OPD tested out body cameras and allowed their officers to provide feedback. Axon became the clear choice, McCutchen said.

An incentive for choosing Axon was the way the company’s body and in-car cameras sync together and communicate with one another, McCutchen said. They will also communicate with the computer-aided dispatch, which will allow OPD to integrate geo-tagging and location services.

“It’s transparency for the community,” McCutchen said. “When they have a concern about a (traffic) stop or an encounter, we can almost in real time have a supervisor bring them in and sit them down and show them this information, and if we’re wrong, it gives us an opportunity to correct it. If we’re right, we get to explain what maybe they didn’t see there.”

Knowing how important these pieces of equipment are and that the agreement would be a big expenditure, the department adjusted their budget for the upcoming fiscal year to accommodate the purchase. The total cost is $923,401.60, which will be paid annually in increments of $184,680.32.

The equipment is expected to be shipped to OPD on Oct. 1 and will be put to use immediately upon arrival.