Hiawatha police first in state using gun-mounted cameras

Published: Sep. 27, 2019 at 9:17 PM CDT
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Hiawatha police officers are now using cameras that will go on all of their handguns. It's just one piece of new technology they are hoping will help in what can be high-stress situations.

"When the weapon is drawn, the camera and light come on," said Hiawatha Police Chief Dennis Marks.

Automatically, high-definition video, and audio records all from the handgun. Marks says all 14 full-time Hiawatha police officers and two reserves will now be using this.

"Sometimes the view of the body camera is blocked by forearms or hands, and what this does is it takes a camera and it puts it out on the front. There is no obstructions on the front of your weapon to recording a true and accurate total event,” Marks added.

As the first Iowa agency using this, Marks expects it to eventually be standard and pave the way for other departments to use the beneficial tool.

"Three days after an officer-involved shooting, would I be wishing that I spent that $500, if I don't have clear video of what happened to be able to share. The answer is absolutely. I would be regretful if I didn't have the technology," said Marks.

However, that's not where it stops, four of the department's patrol cars now have thermal imaging cameras.

"The officers just open up the screen that has the thermal imaging, and instantly they are able to see in total darkness," said Marks. "With car burglaries for example, especially at night time, there is a lot of places where you can lurk in the shadows. What this tool does is it takes that ability to hide in the shadows away from them," Marks said.

They also have two handheld cameras for where the cars can't go.

One Hiawatha store owner says recent burglaries in the Wolf Creek area, and her own shop being robbed has her concerned.

"It's exciting to know that they are thinking out of the box to get the criminals. We have been here 11 years, and we've been broken into four times," said Jennifer Goodlove, Farmer’s Daughter’s Market Owner. "And it's always in the middle of the night that I get a call."

She supports the thermal imaging cameras, but says it's also about being proactive.

"I think a lot of people are utilizing the ring on their doorsteps and they can catch people that way. I think that's excellent,” added Goodlove. "I'm all for technology as long as it's being used in the right way."

The camera-mounted guns cost $500 each. The department paid $3,200 for the car thermal imaging cameras, including installation, and $2,500 for the handheld units.

Donations and forfeiture funds paid for them.

Marks says they've finished the policy to go along with the handgun cameras and about a third of their officers have gone through training. They expect all the officers to be using them by next week.