Ashland Police Chief says new dash cams increase transparency

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ASHLAND - After years of discussion, Ashland Police cruisers are now home to new dash cameras. 

The city purchased three dash cameras for about $10,000 in late May after reaching out to the community for funding

Two dash cameras were placed in existing police cars, while a third camera will be placed in a new cruiser after the city plans to add a car to the fleet in the fall. 

Though the dash cameras are fairly new, Ashland Police Chief Lyn Woolford said the department has already submitted footage for a court case involving a DWI traffic stop. 

Though Woolford said he could not give specifics of the ongoing case, he said the dash camera was used as an evidence gathering tool. 

"It records what occurs before the traffic stop is made, so it's recording any kind of evidence that would be indicative of impaired driving," Woolford said. 

Woolford said the city reached out to neighboring agencies in Columbia and Hallsville before testing different kinds of dash cameras. The city decided on COBAN In-Car Video Systems

"We're not trying to hide anything, if there's an issue we'll confront it and if we make a mistake, we'll correct it," he said.

Woolford said he thinks the tool has already increased the transparency of the department's actions. 

"It's just a fair way to review things, so it gets the questionable out of 'Well, what happened here?'" Woolford said. 

Woolford said the dash cameras can also be used as a training tool to review officer tactics. 

"Police officers are like anybody else, sometimes their memory just isn't exactly right, so the camera's will be a remedy to that so we can get an accurate portrayal of actually what happened," he said. "So, then there's no 'I think I said or I thought I did.'" 

Mayor Gene Rhorer said he has reviewed some of the footage from the cameras.

"Absolutely, it's a benefit," Rhorer said. "It keeps our officers potentially safe and our citizens." 

Rhorer said the city previously had dash cameras in their cruisers, but the software became obsolete. Due to budget constraints, the city was unable to purchase new ones until now.