Police obtain grant for body cameras

The UNA Police Department applied for and received a grant last month for body cameras for their officers.

The department is hoping the new equipment on campus will help the department as they work toward accreditation with the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, said UNA Chief of Police Kevin Gillilan.

“(IACLEA) advances public safety for educational institutions by providing educational resources, advocacy and professional development services,” Gillilan said in an email. “Accreditation constitutes recognition that a department conforms to the highest professional standards for campus law enforcement and protective services.”

After providing examples of how UNA Police would use the cameras and rules on how they would oversee the use of the cameras, they received the grant, he said.

Securing the grant was not easy due to the competition, Gillilan said.

“We were very proud that we were able to compete with various agencies across the country and that we were rewarded the grant,” he said.

Gillilan said he thinks the body cameras will be beneficial to students because they will have peace of mind knowing the police are documenting any situation they are involved in.

The cameras will also provide better protection for faculty, staff and students, Gillilan said.

“With everything going on around the country, it would be to our benefit to guard our officers against unwarranted complaints,” Gillilan said. “At the same time, research shows that any time a body camera is in use, the behavior of the officer improves as well as the behavior of the suspect.”

Gillilan said the grant requires the university to send two officers to a camera grant conference for training. He said he also plans on using the cameras for training purposes.

Freshman Josh Williams said he feels body cameras on campus will help clear up any confusion involving a crime.

“You won’t have to guess about things that happen,” said Williams. “People will be able to see the situation.”

UNA Police worked together to secure the grant, said UNA Deputy Chief of Police Mark Parker.

“We did a quick study and pulled together some information (to apply for the grant),” Parker said. “It was a combination effort here of about six officers along with the chief.”

Parker said the department will receive approximately 20 body cameras. At the end of every officer’s shift, they will download the footage from the cameras.

The quantity of cameras will outnumber the staff. There are 14 UNA police officers not including Gillilan and the Deputy Chief of Police Mark Parker, according to UNA Police’s website.

“It is a very special opportunity,” Gillilan said. “It’s going to bring something very positive to the police department here and the campus.”

Gillilan said the department has also applied for another grant through the Alabama Department of Economic Community Affairs and the Verne Edwards Assistant Program.

“We were able to submit some items that were on our needs list,” Gillilan said. “Our hopes with this grant would be to acquire some new taser equipment, outfitting all of our officers with up to date fitted bullet proof vests and 150 internal lockdown devices.”

Internal lockdown devices can be attached to an interior door to prevent it from opening in either direction, he said.

Gillilan said he hopes to hear back about new equipment through ADECA in the upcoming months.

“Anything we can do to benefit the UNA community and enhance our level of professionalism, we are going to do,” Gillilan said. “We are here to serve the faculty, staff and students. I think they deserve the best.”

Not all students feel having this new equipment will be beneficial to the campus, said senior Cody McCrary.

“I don’t feel like they would ever be that useful on campus,” McCrary said. “I don’t feel like the crime rate on a university is even remotely close to the crime rate that it is for a city.”