• December 20, 2014

Video cameras have impact on law enforcement

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Posted: Sunday, February 2, 2014 4:30 am

Technology is changing the way law enforcement officers do their jobs.

Jack Maxwell Comeaux Jr., 66, was an officer for 20 years before he was convicted of aggravated assault and spent 21 months in jail for using excessive force.

The rules for keeping the peace and enforcing the law have changed and blurred, Comeaux said.

“The crooks outnumber us, outgun us, outspend us and have the best legal counsel available,” he said.

One of the major changes in law enforcement, the use of dash-cam videos, was the straw that sent Comeaux to jail.

A trooper with the Texas Department of Public Safety stationed in Falls County went to investigate a complaint that a vehicle was doing doughnuts in the middle of a road on Jan. 17, 2009.

What Trooper Jeff Wachtendorf found was a pickup truck with a left front tire missing. The tire blew out as the young men were leaving the scene of a paintball ambush, he was told. The men said they wanted to file a complaint, so Wachtendorf called the Rosebud Police Department to start the process.

The trooper said the mood changed after the arrival of Comeaux, who was an officer with the Rosebud police force at the time. Comeaux seemed “agitated and was trying to intimidate the young men,” he said.

Wachtendorf, uncomfortable with the situation, said he turned on his in-car video equipment and listened as Comeaux started yelling at Garrett Lance, one of the people in the pickup.

A tense two-minute conversation was followed by Comeaux pushing Lance against the vehicle, holding him there and putting his hand to Lance’s throat. Lance fell to the ground in a few seconds, Wachtendorf said.

Complaints

Dash-cam videos played a role last year in a Temple police case against Master Sgt. Christopher Grisham and in a complaint filed recently by Thomas Keifer that Temple police used excessive force in his arrest for evading arrest in a vehicle.

Grisham claimed excessive force was used in his March 16 arrest, but the judge wouldn’t allow him to use that argument during trial.

His first trial ended in a mistrial due to a hung jury. The second trial resulted in a guilty verdict, which Grisham and his attorneys are appealing.

The results of a recent internal investigation by Temple police concluded Keifer’s claim was unfounded and the correct degree of force was used to control him during his arrest. Temple police had several dash-cam videos that recorded the events leading up to the arrest as well as the arrest itself.

Add accountability

The Temple Police Department fully supports and is committed to using audio-visual recording devices in patrol vehicles, Cpl. Christopher Wilcox said.

Each patrol vehicle has the devices, which are continually updated.

“The presence of the equipment makes everyone, officers and citizens alike, accountable for their actions,” Wilcox said.

Comeaux said streets are more dangerous today than in previous years.

“Laws change every day so that it’s hard to know what is valid today and is not tomorrow. The streets are inherently more dangerous for the average citizen than ever before,” Comeaux said. “Yet they expect the police to remedy on the spot correct responses every time.”

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