Gift from Pearce Foundation provides body cameras for Salem police

Morning Journal/Mary Ann Greier Salem Police Department personnel recently offered thanks to the Pearce Foundation for a grant allowing them to purchase new technologically-advanced body cameras. From left are Patrolman Mike Wirkner, Chief J.T. Panezott, Pearce Foundation trustee Robert McCulloch, Patrolman Craig Crider, Detective Brad Davis and Sgt. Brent Slider.

SALEM — New body cameras worn by Salem Police officers provide better video, better audio and ease of use, all for the protection of both the police and the public.

That’s according to Chief J.T. Panezott and Detective Brad Davis, who talked about the new equipment while thanking Robert McCulloch, a trustee with the Pearce Foundation, which granted $35,000 for the purchase of the new system.

“The foundation felt this request was warranted. The cameras will be used by our police to protect the community,” McCulloch said.

Body cameras aren’t anything new for the department. The first set of six body cameras came in 2015, courtesy of Cheryl Railsback and the Shane Detwiler Foundation, the organization named in honor of her son, a Salem native and deputy sheriff in Texas who was killed in the line of duty.

Panezott said the addition of body cameras was very important to the department at that time. The technology got old quickly, though, and they found the need to upgrade.

The grant covered the purchase of 14 new Watchguard V300 body cameras, 14 extra batteries, new software, licensing fees and a new server with a huge storage capacity of 40 terabytes.

Davis said the batteries couldn’t be changed in the old units, but with the new ones, when the battery dies, a new one can be popped inside. The server allows all the video footage to be stored on the premises. The footage from the new body cameras and the in-car cameras all go to the same server and can be tracked more easily.

Docking stations in the cruisers sync with the in-car cameras and both cameras start recording at the same time when the overhead lights are activated. The new body cameras are more technologically advanced than the old units. The department is the first in the state to have them and started using them in August. Every officer on duty will have a body camera.

“This is for transparency,” Panezott said.

He said after an incident a couple weeks ago, a man came in to complain about the officers. Panezott was able to review the video before the man even had a chance to say what he had to say. In 99 percent of the instances when there was a complaint about an officer or officers, he found that officers did no wrong after reviewing the video footage.

Department policy guides when officers record. They try to be sensitive to victims and he noted there are times when they don’t record, but it’s all controlled by department policy.

Since starting to use the new cameras, the chief has heard positive comments from officers. Panezott remembers the days when they had a large video camera which used VHS to record crime scenes.

“We’ve come a long way,” he said.

He said he’s thankful to have the foundations in the city that have helped out the department so much, including the Pearce Foundation and the Salem Community Foundation, which has helped a lot with equipment and the K-9 program.

“We’re very grateful for this,” Panezott said.



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