Police lights

All officers in the Morgantown Police Department will now be equipped with body cameras to monitor their activity and to “provide more transparency to the public,” according to a press release from MPD Chief Ed Preston.

The cameras must be manually activated by the officer wearing it as he or she exits their vehicle. The recordings, which can be more than 18 hours, can then only be downloaded by a supervisor at the police station.

“Anything that’s going to improve your evidence collection and documentation ability is a benefit,” Preston said in the release. “It benefits the courts. It benefits the public. It benefits the officers because it more accurately depicts the incidents as they happen.”

Police cars are already outfitted with in-car cameras to monitor all activity, but Preston said body cameras are to provide the officer’s direct view.

Morgantown’s school resource officers and special response teams have worn cameras for almost 20 years, according to the release.

MPD was given $10,000 by the Governor’s Highway Safety Program to purchase the body cameras and other equipment.

“It’s been an entire effort to better equip the officers to better do their jobs over the past several years,” Preston said. “We’ve incorporated radars. We’ve incorporated portable breath-testing instruments. We’ve obtained laptop computers and cameras. All of these things together enable the officers to perform their jobs more efficiently and more effectively.”

Many police departments have moved toward adopting body cameras as a standard of practice after riots broke out across the nation following controversial decisions to not indict several white police officers after they killed unarmed black men.

Though there weren’t riots for these decisions in Morgantown, W.Va., Preston told The Charleston Gazette in October that he wished the body cameras would have come in for the rioting after West Virginia University’s football victory over Baylor.