Dash cameras offer fresh perspective on incidents

Mar 27, 2023

About a year after Dartmouth police began wearing body cameras, additional technology has been added to the department’s cruisers to record incidents in real time.

Dashboard cameras are now installed in the department’s 18 front-line cruisers, which respond to incidents. The cameras record activity outside the vehicles from a forward-facing camera. 

While body cameras are attached to the officer’s uniform, the dashboard camera remains in the cruiser, providing “another angle, another option’’ to viewing a situation, said Sgt. Joseph Rapoza, who is overseeing the dashboard camera program for the department.

Aabody camera provides a look at an entire situation from the officer’s perspective, while the dashboard camera offers a stationary view of events in front of the cruiser, such as traffic stops and accidents, Rapoza said.

This offers “another tool to capture evidence,’’ Rapoza said.

As with the body cameras, the dashboard technology provides a significant benefit, Rapoza said. Where people’s memories can sometimes be questionable, particularly in the heat of the moment, recordings tell the story in a straightforward, reliable manner.

These technologies provide a “civilizing effect’’ because people know their actions and words are being recorded. Both the body and dashboard cameras gather “the whole picture,’’ Rapoza said. 

“Without the video, it takes more time to resolve’’ a disagreement on events, which can be “more of a he said, she said’’ situation without hard evidence. 

Having the technology will “generate fewer complaints and reduce the time to resolve a complaint.’’

The cameras also reduce time needed to generate incident reports, he said, since statements can be taken by video. 

Footage, which is randomly reviewed by supervisors, can also serve as a training tool. “No one’s perfect,’’ Rapoza noted, and the tapes can show “something that could have been done better.’’

Viewing the footage can “train people on real-life scenarios.’’ 

In addition to facing forward, the cameras can also be trained in the back seat of a cruiser to record prisoners being transported.

This angle, Rapoza said, can “protect both the prisoners and us’’ and “reduce false allegations of anything.’’

Rapoza suspects this technology will be increasingly common in police departments as they learn the benefits he said such equipment provides. “I anticipate every town and city will have dash cams in the next five years,’’ he said.