WATERVILLE (AP) — Maine police have been going high-tech in how they record their interactions with the public.

A handful of police departments have been using small cameras that can be clipped to officers’ uniforms, replacing dashboard-mounted cameras that many departments use. The goal is to record video from the officer’s point of view for evidence against suspects, to protect officers from unfounded accusations and to protect the public from police misconduct.

Departments in Wilton, Farmington and Gardiner are among those using the cameras, the Morning Sentinel reported. In other departments, some officers have bought their own.

Wilton Police Chief Heidi Wilcox said the department’s first camera was paid for through a grant for domestic-violence prevention to record statements from witnesses in domestic violence cases. But the cameras are a valuable tool for other applications as well, she said.

The mobile cameras are more useful than dashboard-mounted models in traffic stops, she said, because they allow a full recording of an event. In drunken driving cases, they can record the field sobriety test up close.

“You can actually hear the person slurring their speech while they’re trying to say the alphabet,” Wilcox said.

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Officers also use the cameras to record interviews in people’s homes, she said. And they’re less expensive than the ones used on dashboards.

The cameras have sparked controversy over privacy rights in other states, but police chiefs, civil rights advocates, defense attorneys and others in Maine said the cameras for the most part are a good thing.

Rachel Healy, spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, said the wearable cameras can protect the rights of both police and citizens.

“They can be useful protecting the public from police misconduct, and officers are protected from unfounded complaints,” Healy said.


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