Cedar Rapids Police Working to Get More Cameras in Squad Cars

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation continues to look into a Cedar Rapids arrest that ended with a man in critical condition.

Officers arrested Paul Saldivar, 33, late Thursday night. He was causing problems at a downtown Cedar Rapids bar.

On the way to jail, police said Saldivar started kicking the squad car seats and hitting his head on an arm rest. When they got to jail, Saldivar was unresponsive. Now a full swing state investigation is underway, but there were no cameras in the squad car at the time to record what happened that night.

That's an issue the police department said it is actively working on. Cedar Rapids Sgt. Cristy Hamblin said the camera wasn't there because the department is going through a transition to change camera technology throughout the fleet.

"It's not a fast get it done right away kind of project. It's one that is going to take quite a bit of time because the cost is the number one factor. It will take a lot of time to install the cameras, get the cameras synced to the computers and there are two cameras in the car really," Sgt. Hamblin said.

Police with the Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Marion police departments said all of their marked cars have cameras inside. The Cedar Rapids Police Department, however, only has cameras in about a dozen of its 60 vehicles.

The old systems were removed due to technical issues that created problems for officers. Police say it's frustrating but installing new technology is a slow and expensive process.

"I've been on the department for 29 years, and it would have been nice to have the cameras for the last 29 years in every single squad car," Sgt. Hamblin said.

The goal is for every vehicle to have the new camera equipment by the end of 2013.

The equipment will automatically record what's happening outside and in the back seat of the police car moments after patrol officers turn on their emergency lights and sirens.

Officers said having the technology inside the car would have helped with the DCI's investigation of the arrest Thursday night.

"In cases like that, it's always going to be beneficial when we're taking someone to Linn County jail, if they have made statements, if they have been disruptive and it cooperates what is being said by the individual and the officer as well," Sgt. Hamblin said.

Traffic camera revenue is helping pay for the installation of the camera technology.
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