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Evidence cameras join force

Moorhead police Monday unveiled a new evidence-collection device that also will document how officers do their jobs. The Police Department will soon install small video cameras in all 16 of its marked squad cars. Five of the cameras and connected...

Moorhead police Monday unveiled a new evidence-collection device that also will document how officers do their jobs.

The Police Department will soon install small video cameras in all 16 of its marked squad cars.

Five of the cameras and connected hardware, which cost about $4,000 each, will be paid for with money from the sale of vehicles forfeited in DUI cases.

Money for nine of the cameras came from the state of Minnesota for Moorhead's participation in a racial profiling study involving many communities across Minnesota.

"We want to eliminate any accusations, or any possibility -- as best we can -- of any racial profiling being done in our department," said Deputy Chief Dave Andersen.

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In addition, Andersen said the tapes will provide prosecutors with evidence stemming from traffic stops and other situations officers deal with.

The small cameras will be mounted on the windshield, with the recording device locked in a box in the trunk.

Officers will not have access to the tapes, which will be handled by sergeants and other supervisors, Andersen said.

Most tapes will be kept for a period of about two months but some may be kept indefinitely, Andersen said.

The cameras will turn on automatically whenever a cruiser's red lights are activated. Officers can turn them on at other times as well.

Sgt. Dan Griffin said the cameras will be helpful for chaotic times when officers are confronted with a crowd of people and identifying suspects or witnesses is difficult.

The systems include a small wireless microphone that officers can wear.

Cameras have been used in Dilworth's two marked police cars since before the start of the year.

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"Simply put, they kind of keep everybody on their toes," said Dilworth Police Chief Dave Miller.

"Officers are aware they are on and it keeps them from doing anything silly," he said, adding the tapes also come in handy when someone files a bogus complaint against an officer in hopes of getting a charge dropped.

Miller said microphones are built into the cars and officers also carry one on their person.

He said recordings have caught suspects muttering in the backseat of a cruiser while an officer searched their car.

"You can hear them say, 'Good, they didn't find it.''' Miller said, adding that on at least one occasion an officer went back to search a car after listening to a tape and ended up finding what the person tried to hide.

Readers can reach Moorhead Bureau Chief Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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