Cameras make difference in prosecution of cases

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By Ashley Scoby, Intern

 Fighting crime has gotten a little easier in LaRue County in the past year, thanks to the purchase of small video recorders that are clipped onto officers’ uniforms. 

The cameras, which cost about $140-150 each, according to Chief Deputy Russell McCoy, have been a “huge asset” to the LaRue County Sheriff’s Office since the force purchased them about a year ago. The inception of this new technology has recently led to the arrests of Alex Clifford and Tiffany Underwood for perjury. Recordings of what Clifford and Underwood said on the stand currently are being used in court as evidence they lied under oath.

According to Deputy Eric Williamson, who testified during preliminary hearings for Underwood and Clifford, the accused consented to let officers into their residence for a search. Evidence was found in the house that was later used to bring about charges of heroin trafficking. While Clifford and Underwood were testifying, they claimed they had not consented to the search and accused Williamson of “threatening” them.  

“Of course, when we saw that video, it was exactly how I said it happened,” Williamson said. 

LaRue District Judge C. Derek Reed found probable cause during the hearing, which means he considered there to be enough evidence to be heard by a grand jury. Both have been indicted and the cases are proceeding through LaRue Circuit Court.

This recent case is just one example in what the sheriff’s department hopes to be a long line of prosecutions helped along by their new technology.

“A video’s worth a million dollars,” McCoy said. “If people say it on video, they can’t take it back. That case (Clifford and Underwood’s) was really the feather in our hat for the cameras.”

While the video-recording technology is especially beneficial in offering hard proof of what a person said or did at a given time, the cameras are also helpful with protecting officers from potential accusations. According to McCoy, recording an arrest on the miniature camera would protect the arresting officers if the suspect tried to say his/her Miranda rights weren’t read. 

“Without this, whether it be audio or video recording, it’s our word versus their word,” McCoy said. “I consider our guys to be truthful and efficient, by-the-book kind of guys. Once you get that on video, though, it’s set in stone.”

Protection from accusations is crucial for law enforcement agents, but protection from potentially violent situations is as well. LaRue’s new technology offers that kind of security also.

“The cameras are 100 percent positive for the department,” McCoy said. “They’re like the in-car cameras, which we have too. If people know they’re being recorded, it might affect their statements. But in the field … they might think twice about acting violent or resisting arrest.” 

According to Williamson, the cameras are especially helpful also for DUI cases and traffic stops. 

“We can video their body language and how they’re acting,” he said. “We can film the sobriety test too. With the cameras, we don’t have to try and explain what someone was doing when they were under the influence. We just have proof.” 

Having hard proof of what someone has said or done also increases the efficiency in LaRue County’s judicial system. If there is video evidence against someone, attorneys are less likely to fight the charge, according to McCoy. This makes prosecutions and hearings move much quicker. 

Efficiency is the name of the game with law-enforcement technology these days. In addition to these cameras, McCoy said the sheriff’s department also is part of a now statewide system that uses e-warrants. Electronic warrants are entered into a database, where any county in Kentucky can access them. 

“It gets a little hectic sometimes with electronics and computers, but the main thing is better access,” McCoy said. “The technology out there is unreal now. It’s doing really well for law enforcement.”