Vernon PD weapon mounted cameras provide vital evidence

Vernon PD weapon mounted cameras provide vital evidence

VERNON, Texas (TNN) - Video from Vernon police officer TJ Session’s gun helped convict a suspect of using deadly force against an officer.

While all the pieces of evidence, in this case, were important, the most vital piece came from the officer’s on-the-gun camera, giving an unobstructed view of what was happening in the vehicle between the officer and the suspect when the dash and body cams couldn’t.

“What the gun camera provided us was, during certain portions of the body camera footage, the camera’s view was obscured by the officer’s hands which were in front of the body cam,” Wilbarger district attorney Staley Heatly said.

From the body camera footage, still-shots were presented in court, showing the officer and suspect interacting, but couldn’t show the full view of what the suspect was doing.

The gun camera helped show the suspect reaching for a shotgun in the car.

“It made any argument that somehow the defendant acted in self-defense, which was absurd, it made that obvious to the jury,” Heatly said. “So it was really an absolutely critical piece of evidence in this case.”

Other law enforcement organizations are taking notice of the cameras as well, both locally and across the country.

“It’s just another means to show what’s happening in front of that officer for the public to see, not only does it protect the officer but it protects the people involved,” Wilbarger County sheriff Bill Price said.

While the sheriff’s office does use body cameras, they haven’t looked into weapon-mounted cameras, but aren’t ruling them out.

“I think there’s a necessity, we need it nowadays because that’s one of the things with being transparent with the public,” Price said.

Vernon police have consistently led the field, adopting body cameras in 2012 at the same time the Department of Justice recommended forces across the country to consider them and were one of first in the nation for gun cameras.

“Vernon has been an early adopter of body-worn camera technology and now of this gun camera technology and it allows us to have an unfettered view or the best view you possibly can without looking through the eyes of the officer,” Heatly said.

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