PIGEON FORGE (WATE) – The city of Pigeon Forge approved five new dash cameras for the police department Monday, but 6 News has learned that the cameras aren’t always turned on.
6 News went through hours of dash camera and body camera footage in eight DVDs from an officer involved shooting last month in Pigeon Forge. None of them were from the officers that went into the Wendy’s and confronted two people who were wanted for questioning in a Campbell County murder investigation.
According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Sergeant Ralph Carr shot suspect, James Phillips, after he believed he was armed. That investigation revealed Phillips and Monica Briggs only had a cell phone and hairbrush.
With four body cameras and sixteen dash cameras in use that night, not one of them were turned on until after the shooting. 6 News wanted to get answers from Pigeon Forge Police Chief Jack Baldwin.
“They’re like everyone else. Hindsight is always 20/20. The activation of the camera is based upon what the officer feels the need at the time,” he said.
TBI investigators say four officers were looking for the two suspects when they found them at a Pigeon Forge Wendy’s. According to Baldwin, the officers were only looking to arrest the Phillips and Briggs, but the incident soon escalated.
Baldwin confirmed that none of those officers were wearing body cameras.
The chief said that all patrol cars are equipped with their own dash cameras, but their dash cameras weren’t turned on either. 6 News was told that cameras are used at the officer’s discretion.
The only way a dash camera will turn on automatically is if any emergency equipment, like sirens, are used.
The bottom line – why invest in cameras that cost thousands of dollars if they aren’t always on?
“It’s worked quite well for us except for this one incident and you know I don’t know that anybody is always perfect,” said Baldwin.
Chief Baldwin also said that the camera policies would be remaining the same.
6 News reached out to other law enforcement agencies including the Knoxville Police Department, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, and the Alcoa Police Department to see what policies they had for body and dash cameras. KPD spokesman, Darrell DeBusk, said dash cameras are always on and officers do not have the ability to turn them off.
Alcoa Police Chief, Phillip Potter, said that their body cameras are operated manually by officers, like the Pigeon Forge Police Department. However, their dash cameras are automatic for the most part and turn on instantly with the emergency lights or when the patrol car gets to a certain speed.
Knox County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman, Martha Dooley, cited the county’s general order which states that “the in-car video system shall be in the record mode at all times when the vehicle is in operation or there is potential for citizen contact, whether on-duty, off-duty or during secondary employment.”
As for the suspect in the murder investigation, 36-year-old Monica Briggs, she’s been charged with premeditated first degree murder and being held on a $750,000 bond.