The Kenai Police Department has begun its Project REDD record every drunk driver with the aid of new digital video cameras recently installed in every patrol vehicle in the city.
Funded by a matching grant from the Alaska Highway Safety Office, the new state-of-the-art equipment enables police to produce high-quality video and audio evidence during arrests of people suspected of driving under the influence.
The goal of the project is to increase the DUI conviction rate, according to a printed statement issued by the department.
"In the past, we had VHS cameras, but the tapes made were only used about 73 percent of the time," said Patrol Sgt. Gus Sandahl.
Since Project REDD began May 20, four people were arrested for driving under the influence and all four were digitally recorded, Sandahl said Monday.
Because of the lower quality of the older VHS equipment recordings, there was a good chance that one in four of those arrests would not have been recorded, he said.
The equipment used previously did not always show detainees stumbling or performing poorly on field sobriety tests and often did not successfully record a person's slurred speech, he said.
"With digital, the quality is really nice," Sandahl said.
He said the quality of the evidence often makes the difference whether the district attorney decides to prosecute a case or offer a plea arrangement.
Additionally, the new cameras can be removed from the patrol cars to take still pictures of other related evidence, such as open alcoholic beverage containers in a suspect's vehicle.
Sgt. Marvin Towell of the Soldotna Police Department said that agency also recently received similar grant funding and anticipates installing the same camera equipment in its patrol cars.
"We'll be getting nine digital video cameras," Towell said.
"We hope to have them installed by mid-June."
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