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NEWS | Oct. 26, 2016

JBA holds body camera test for SFS evidence

By 11th Wing Public Affairs JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md.

Members of the 11th Security Forces Squadron began using body worn cameras here Oct. 26, 2016 to further develop Air Force security forces evidence-collecting capabilities.

The implementation of the devices is part of a Headquarters Air Force dictated test plan to determine which kind of camera will best suit the service’s defenders and their processes.

“We’re looking to gain evidence,” said Staff Sgt. Samarre Perez, 11th SFS confinement NCO. “Cameras serve as secondary eyesight and footage can bring light to a situation.”

The test period will last for approximately six months here, during which, two different types of cameras will be put through rigorous training to determine their recording quality, usefulness, and how they can be better utilized.

“Test plans are common for equipment,” Perez said. “We test products to determine their pros and cons and if it’s successful, a larger plan will be made to make the purchase. It’s a less expensive solution than spending millions of dollars on a product only to find out it wasn’t necessary in the first place.”

Security forces members received training from product vendors in preparation for the wear of the equipment.

“We participated in something called ‘train the trainer’,” Perez said. “It’s when the vendor brings their own private team to train you on their camera software and equipment for a day.”

Following the initial training, the team taught military personnel how to tailor the equipment to their unit’s procedures and educate the remaining security forces members on their use.

“We learned the camera’s capabilities, specifications, and what it can and can’t handle,” said Perez. “Then, we geared up to train the rest of security forces during the second phase.”

To ensure an encompassing test of quality, approximately nine cameras will be worn at a time by law enforcement officers, lead gate guards, K-9 handlers, the emergency services team, and training and quality care officers, Perez said.

While the wear of the body cameras will not have a significant impact on the way defenders conduct their mission, a few minor changes may occur.

“We’re mostly just including the extra step of turning on the cameras before doing our law enforcement duty on-scene,” Perez said. “However, we’ve been looking into prefacing public interactions with a statement to ensure individuals know they are being recorded by cameras.”

Security forces’ goal is to disperse the new equipment information to the community as much as possible, so the public feels safe and more aware, Perez emphasized.

“It’s beneficial to have these body worn cameras because it promotes officer and community safety,” said Staff Sgt. Benjamin Castro, 11th SFS law enforcement administration NCO. “For example, if a subject is on the run and the cameras were involved during an altercation with the individual, you’ll be able to get positive identification on that subject and more easily find them.”

In addition to evidence collecting, the body cameras will be able to assist officers in training as well as provide a firsthand look at altercations in court.

“A situation can go from a simple noise complaint to a full-blown domestic assault when arriving on-scene,” said Perez. “DUIs are especially important. Someone can deny taking an intoxication test, but the footage would fully represent how unfit they were to drive.”

Ultimately, the cameras will assist with filling in the gaps in altercations when they need to be recounted for evidentiary purposes.

“In the law enforcement realm, situations can go from 0 to 100 really fast,” Perez said. “The cameras provide a ‘bird’s eye view,’ that gives us a second chance to see a scene and experience it as it happens. Recounting it for a report with only your memory as a guide is difficult, but cameras tell the totality of the story and put everything into perspective.”