ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WAVY) — Elizabeth City’s police department signed on to a new era of transparency. Wednesday, the department released its plan for officers to wear body cameras.
Last August, nine Elizabeth City officers started to wear body cameras. It was part of the department’s testing phase.
“We had an alleged complaint come in on an officer that as actually wearing one of the field test body cameras,” Elizabeth City Chief Eddie Buffaloe said. “We dispelled it within minutes.”
Chief Buffaloe pointed to an obvious example of how transparency helps his department.
“It would be an eyewitness to the actual investigation,” he said.
Beyond that, he adds that cameras serve a purpose in court.
“This is evidence that the officer could use, as well as the defense could use because it would go down as part of the discovery when it comes out in a criminal case,” the chief explained.
Wednesday, Chief Buffaloe announced the purchase of cameras for 40 of his officers; with it, policy on how the cameras should work.
“Any law enforcement action by that officer, the body camera has to be running,” the chief explained the mandate.
In non-criminal situations, people may ask the officer to turn off the camera, but if he feels the incident is about to become a law enforcement incident he must turn it back on. If officers can’t explain video lapses, it could trigger an investigation.
It’s not common in Elizabeth City for violent incidents involving police. The chief said the last incident happened in November 2015. But, if one did happen how available would the video be to the public?
“If it’s gonna dispel some issues that are out there then we don’t have a problem with review of that particular body camera footage,” he explained. “As long as the district attorney’s office is on board with it.”
Chief Buffaloe expects the body cameras to be in within the next few months.