Bennington Police now fully equipped with dashboard, body cameras

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BENNINGTON — Bennington Police are now fully wired for video.

Six police cruisers and 24 officers will now be equipped with cameras. The body camera and vehicle cameras link together and record at all times so that nothing is ever lost, said Kevin Coughlin, regional sales manager with the Texas-based Watch Guard Video, the company supplying the cameras. They automatically begin recording when the vehicle is started and creates an "event" whenever an officer performs an action, such as turning on their lights, he said.

Body cameras will be clipped onto the officers' shirts using a magnet and pin to ensure that the camera stays on the uniform. "If there's a confrontation or running we don't have to worry about the camera falling off," said Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette, who unveiled the new cameras on Wednesday.

Doucette called the cameras a "great addition" for the the department, adding that officers will now be able to review everything that goes on during stops and perhaps catch things they might have missed during patrols.

"These cameras are going to help everyone in the long run, from the state's attorney with criminal prosecution, which will lead to more plea agreements and lessen case loads; to making our officers better at their jobs by reviewing videos to ensure officers are driving safely; to reviewing best practices to make sure the officers are following department policy when they are responding to complaints," said Doucette, "But honestly we have a great department here in Bennington, and we have a great group of men and women in this department. It will keep everyone honest and I'm looking forward to this exciting addition."

Officers will now be able to review evidence from the scene of a motor vehicle crash, such as placement of debris and the movements of emergency personnel. "You get everything," said Doucette.

Bennington Police have been using dash cameras for years, said Doucette, but eventually the department was down to only two cameras. In January, the town budgeted just under $120,000 for the new cameras over the next five years. The budget was approved by voters in March.

The cameras will only enhance the way the department handles cases, said Doucette, noting that officers will be able to go back and review the video to make sure nothing has been missed when it comes to writing and generating reports, while at the same time creating transparency within the department. When someone is processed for a DUI and disputes certain tests or procedures, he said, the video is now evidence that can be played back, saved to several formats, and even sent to the State's Attorney through email, which is a first for the department. "It's going to help us with our criminal cases and it's going to eliminate any questions," said Doucette.

"False complaints will hopefully be a thing of the past," said Bennington Police Sgt. Cam Grande.

Reach Holly Pelczynski at 802-447-7567, ext. 119 or @HollyPelczynski


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