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In-car cameras installed in Durham sheriff's patrol vehicles

The Durham County Sheriff's Office installed dashboard and backseat cameras in 31 of its 40 patrol vehicles.

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DURHAM, N.C. — The Durham County Sheriff’s Office installed dashboard and backseat cameras in 31 of its 40 patrol vehicles.

Deputies will also be outfitted with microphones that can capture audio while away from the vehicle.

The cameras are activated when the vehicle's emergency lights are activated, when the vehicle goes over 85 mph or is involved in a wreck. Deputies can also record manually through the camera or microphone.

Video from the cameras are wirelessly downloaded to a secure server and kept for 30 days unless used in a criminal case.

"It's definitely much needed and it's helped us tremendously," said Durham County deputy Antoine Harris, whose patrol vehicle has the cameras.

Cameras will be installed in the remaining patrol vehicles in the near future, the agency said.

“In-car cameras are an important way to advance law enforcement training efforts and promote transparency,” Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews said in a statement. “I am excited that technology offers ways to evaluate our actions as we embrace innovations in policing and strive to provide exceptional service.”

The cameras come as law enforcement has been asked to be more transparent in the wake of an August police shooting in Ferguson, Mo., that left an unarmed 18-year-old dead and caused civil and racial unrest.

Requests for more police transparency were also made in Durham after a 17-year-old shot himself in the head while handcuffed in the back of a Durham police car last year.

The patrol vehicle’s backseat camera was off at the time, police said. Now cameras in Durham police patrol cars are automatically activated seconds after the vehicle is started.

In addition, a number of North Carolina police departments currently use body cameras for officers, including Greensboro, Carthage, Greenville and the Hoke County Sheriff’s Office. Durham police and the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office are considering using body cameras.

The Durham County Sheriff’s Office’s vehicle cameras were approved last year and installed within recent months at a cost of about $170,000, said Brian Jones, the department’s director of operations and development.

"That's a big benefit, that the public sees that we are open about what we do," he said.


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