Police body cameras in Society Hill

By Jana E. Pye, Editor, editor@newsandpress.net

Police Chief Matt Hill addressed Society Hill Town Council and residents in attendance near the beginning of the meeting about the recent controversy in South Carolina about the use of police cameras.

“In light of what’s been going on TV with the police shooting, I wanted to show that what we wear is this camera on my shirt,” pointing to a lapel camera. “It’s pretty simple. I just press a button to record, and hit it again to turn it off.”

Society Hill Police Chief Matt Hill addresses council and community members wearing his body camera at the April town council meeting.

Society Hill Police Chief Matt Hill addresses council and community members wearing his body camera at the April town council meeting.

The recent debacle in North Charleston about police officer Michael T. Slager who shot an unarmed man, Walter L. Scott has erupted in a debate over the use of body cameras by all law enforcement throughout the state, and the nation.

Hill, and part time officer Dwayne Gillespie, both routinely wear the body cameras. He the lapel camera only holding a battery charge for about four hours, but can be charged in the police car using a universal charger.

“Our cars are equipped already with cameras, with a little microphone to attach to your head, so if you pull someone over it records it, giving a rear view of the car. This camera here …whatever birds eye level this is, that is what the camera is going to pick up, and audio as well.”

Hill said the department also received a pair of sunglasses with a camera in the center.

“I am trying those out,” said Hill. “I wanted to point out that this camera and the sunglass camera didn’t cost Society Hill anything. They were actually given to us by the C.A.S.T. Coalition, of which Society Hill is a part of.”

Society Hill partners with the Darlington County C.A.S.T. Coalition – Community Action for a Safer Tomorrow.
“We go there once a month to try to come up with ideas to reduce underage drinking and DUI crashes; we also provide them with reports once a month. For our time, they get grants to buy some things – it’s not much, but we get some things, and they hand out freebies to whoever is part of the program. So, we got two of these last year, so we have had these for a while…. For small towns like us, it really helps.”

Society Hill is also part of the 4th network with Marlboro, Dillon, Darlington, and Chesterfield County, which also gives out free items to the participating departments.

“We submit monthly reports to them as well; if we report everything on time and go to all the meetings and do everything we are supposed to, they also give out free items. So, a lot of the things we are getting doesn’t cost the town anything.”

Hill said that he records all traffic stops, and uses the body cameras in addition to the dash cameras and audio. The smaller body camera has a memory card that is downloaded to the computer. The sunglasses camera works the same way.
Bradshaw has been pleased with the availability of the videos.

“Since I have been mayor, there have been three or four instances where people have called me and weren’t satisfied,” said Bradshaw. “Although, have you ever heard of anyone getting a traffic ticket that is satisfied? Usually you get pulled over if you broke the law. If you broke the law, you won’t be satisfied. I call them back and leave messages to call me, but after I read the reports from the chief, I see why they didn’t call back.”

Council also heard more on the decision on what streetlights will be used to replace the dim mercury vapor lights that are currently fading on several town streets.

According to Bradshaw, the town has around six different types of streetlights, including mercury vapor, metal halide, high pressure sodium vapor, and several others.

“The guy from Duke Energy said we should have one consistent look through the town,” said Bradshaw. “And he suggested LEDs- and I didn’t know any better. The fact of the matter is that throughout the town of Society Hill over the last two to three years, maybe four, there have been several street lights that were old mercury vapor lights. Some of those were replaced with high pressure sodium vapor lights through the town, and they put out excellent light. If you change out perfectly good lights – and we have about ten that are perfectly good high pressure sodium lights- if we change those out and go with the LED then we have to pay a $50 convergent fee; that’s about $450, $500. So my thinking is, we’ve got perfectly good lights in these sodium vapors so lets just go ahead and replace the old mercury ones with those.”

He went on to describe that the mercury vapor lights are “old timey” lights from the 1960’s that slowly dim until they finally die out, taking sometimes years to die.

The sodium vapor lights “blink” on and off when they need to be replaced.

“So, my recommendation is that rather than going with LED lights, that we don’t pay that conversion charge. I just wanted ot let you all know. It’ll save the town about $400 – $500. I see no sense is changing 10 or 12 good lights, just to be changing.”

The depot project progress was updated, and is going on smoothlyon schedule.

The lease agreements on the town’s two rental units will be prepared; two individuals are already ready to move in, bringing a bait and tackle shop to the rental building near the boat landing, and an office to the former car wash.
Council reiterated that the properties maintain their own utilities and their own business renters insurance, and that general liability insurance will be purchased for the properties by the town to protect their interest.

The bait and tackle business has requested to put up iron bars to protect against break-ins; council voted to allow them, if they are attractive and appropriate for the building.

Charlene McDonnough from the Society Hill Library shared the upcoming BBQ fundraiser to be held on April 24th from 11 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at the Society Hill Town Hall, for $8 a plate to raise funds for summer programs.

Cora Byrd reminded attendees that the town will be participating in the Great American Clean Up Day on Saturday, April 25 from 8:00 a.m. – noon, If interested in participating, please contact Cora Byrd at 307-6972, and meet at the Recycling Center at 212 E. Depot Street at 8:00 a.m.

Council will go over the proposed town budget for the next fiscal year at the May meeting, Tuesday May 12th at 6:30 p.m.

Author: Jana Pye

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