CPD gets $37K grant

COVINGTON - The Covington Police Department has been awarded a grant in the amount of $37,787 to purchase digital video equipment for patrol cars.

The department was selected to receive federal funds through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (JAG) administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

The money will be combined with more than $87,000 in forfeited funds, for a total of approximately $125,000, to purchase updated digital video equipment for 10 patrol cars.

The current video system is outdated, according to CPD Public Information Officer Lt. Wendell Wagstaff.

Information recorded on the system can be automatically downloaded once the officer arrives back at police department headquarters, Wagstaff said, adding that the current system uses the dinosaur of the video world - VHS tapes. The process to submit the recordings into evidence can also be cumbersome, he said.

"This is going to be done instantly and wirelessly. It's going to be a real neat piece of equipment for officers," he said.

A server at CPD headquarters will allow for viewing of real-time audio and video when officers make traffic stops. Other possibilities include the ability to watch surveillance footage at local schools, with the school system's permission, Wagstaff said.

CPD officers were involved in 4,742 recordable street incidents such as traffic stops and accident scenes in 2008, Wagstaff said.

The new equipment will assist with the collection of criminal evidence to be used in court, will serve as a reliable source to determine the merit of resident complaints and will provide information on officer tactics for future training purposes, he said.

All features may not be available immediately, but Wagstaff said the department hopes to continue to upgrade and expand the use of the equipment.

"Down the road, we hope to be able to add on, but 10 (patrol cars) is going to be a big help," Wagstaff said. "We hope to have it up and running by the end of the year."

The JAG Program allows states and local governments to support a broad range of activities to prevent and control crime and to improve the criminal justice system. The CPD was awarded JAG funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.