Police body cams keep an eye on you

CHESAPEAKE, VA (WWBT) – These days cameras are everywhere, and now, even police are wearing them. Video can now show exactly what an officer sees while on patrol or taking down a suspect, and the technology is making its way to Virginia.

Tired of people twisting their words, or making up stories, police in Virginia are calling in the ultimate witness: A little video camera, no bigger than lipstick, that officers wear on their bodies, rolling on everything you say or do.

News cameras never get video like this. To be so close to the action, takes a special kind of equipment: One that's raising a few eyebrows in law enforcement, and the general public. And when it's working...sometimes you don't even know it's on.

Police Officer Raymond Kerr is one of the first in Virginia to use the AXOM, made by TASER, and he's rolling almost all the time.

Andy: "All right, so I'm looking right there in to the lens. That records 30 hours?"

Ray: "30 hours."

Andy: "It can go continuously?"

Ray: "Continuously."

Like a human surveillance machine, Ray's been wearing a tiny camera for Chesapeake Police since 2008. A magnet keeps it tight to his collar. And he turns it on with the tap of his finger.

It helps, he says, when he pulls somebody over.

Andy: "At a traffic stop, do you ever find anybody who points at that thing and asks what it is?"

Ray: "They say, hey, what is that, is that a camera? Am I being filmed? And of course I'll them yes."

The cameras raise obvious privacy concerns, but Chesapeake's police chief says there's nothing illegal about shooting video in public.

"If you have a right to be there, you have a right to see it," said Chesapeake Police Chief Kelvin Wright.

Wright says the department has benefited with more accurate descriptions of suspects. The cameras have also helped clarify allegations of police mistreatment, he said.

"Whatever someone alleges took place can be verified by merely rolling the tape," he said.

If the technology hasn't fully caught on in Virginia, at the very least, it's not going away.

"It shows sides, whether the officer was right or wrong, or whether the citizen was right or wrong," said Officer Cory Ring.

In an age where everybody carries a camera in their pocket, it's the new one, on the collar, that aims to keep everyone honest.

"It's not to harm them in any way. If anything, it's to protect them and protect us," Ring added.

More than 1100 police agencies use this type of technology. The bigger departments in central Virginia -Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield- are all aware of the devices, but haven't bought them yet. The cost for the higher end devices can easily run around a thousand dollars per person.

Copyright 2011 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.