The McFarland Police Department is in need of new video recording equipment in its interview rooms to comply with state statutes and to avoid losing cases in court.
The police department began experiencing difficulties with the digital video recorder (DVR) – which controls the cameras in three interview rooms - earlier this year. There are also problems with the DVR for the security video monitoring system that controls eight cameras around the municipal center.
Both have started to malfunction and are to a point where they can no longer be used, Police Chief Craig Sherven said at a special village board budget meeting last Thursday.
“It was kind of hit or miss whether or not it was going to work on a given day,” Sherven said. “Now it’s getting to the point where we literally cannot retrieve video off of it."
The problems with the DVRs began with the occasional discovery of missing data files and loss of audio on recordings in the interview rooms. Sherven said in recent weeks there have been increased incidents of video and, or, audio not recording and now nothing can be retrieved from the DVR.
“This is not something that we would like to have, it’s something that we have to have,” Sherven said.
The department is required by law to record certain types of interviews including juvenile and felony interviews and to have that data available to the court for evidence.
Sherven said if the department ever had one of these types of interviews and couldn’t provide the recording, not only could they lose the case, but they could be in violation of state statute.
In the meantime the department has been using the officer’s body cameras to do in custody interviews.
“Which is not good because technically they recommend that both the officer and the suspect be in the camera shot,” Sherven said. “Of course if you’re wearing the camera gear, all you get is the suspect.”
Sherven said while the department may technically be in compliance, the way the department has been recording interviews the last week or two could possibly be challenged in court.
“We have had a couple of rather serious interviews that have gone on in the last couple weeks,” Sherven said. “I’d hate to see us lose one or something like that.”
Chief Sherven presented two quotes for new recording equipment from different companies to the board – one for $12,460 and one for $8,966.
Before going ahead with one of these two options the village board decided it needed more information to make certain that the proposed system will be expandable for future needs and that it can be linked to cameras located within other Village-owned buildings.
In the meantime, Trustee Brian Utter offered a solution. He suggested village staff could install working cameras, from the cable department, in the interview rooms and made plans to do so.
The board is expected to further discuss, and possibly take action on, the issue at its next meeting in September.