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Fontana Police look to purchase upgraded body cameras

The Fontana Police Department could be receiving some upgraded equipment to record suspicious activity in the near future.

The police department is considering purchasing four upgraded squad car cameras and seven upgraded body cameras from Axon Enterprises in Arizona for about $45,000.

Fontana Police Chief Jeff Cates said even though the department has had squad car cameras and body cameras for several years, the current equipment is becoming outdated and needs to be replaced.

“This is nothing new. It’s just new equipment,” Cates said. “We’ve had squad cameras and body cameras for years now. This is kind of the latest and greatest, and we’re going to upgrade and hopefully have some good equipment.”

Members of the village board’s finance committee unanimously approved to purchase the cameras, June 17. The purchase still has to be approved by the full village board.

Patrick Kenny, Fontana Village Board president, said he agrees that the police department is in need of new cameras.

“We’re in need of upgrades, so Chief Cates has gone out and gotten a few bids,” Kenny said. “The product is a very good product, and we all agree that it’s a good product to go with.”

Cates said the new cameras will be able to synchronize with each other, so officers can view images from the body cameras and squad car cameras at the same time.

“They synch together, so you have synchronization with the squad car camera and the body camera,” Cates said. “You can almost watch it as a picture-and-picture and see what Officer A was seeing and what Officer B was seeing in front of the squad car at the same time. It’s all put in the same timeline.”

Cates said the upgraded cameras also will make it easier for the department to share images and evidence with the district attorney’s office and with defense attorneys.

He said, currently, the department has to burn videos onto a DVD, which can be a timely process. He said with the upgraded cameras the department will be able to save videos to a link and then email them to an attorney.

“With this new system when we get a records request for squad or body camera footage, we can process it within half an hour versus several hours,” Cates said. “It’s a cloud-based system that has cloud storage.”

Kenny said it is important that the police department has the most updated camera technology as possible.

“You can’t go out and buy the cheap ones,” Kenny said. “If they don’t work, they can cost you a case that’s very important. So you want to make sure you go out and get the best ones.”

Cates said cameras have been very important in helping officers solve cases and obtain evidence of criminal activity.

“Cameras are great. They capture evidence that otherwise may have not been noticed,” Cates said. “They protect both the officers and individuals we encounter. It’s a great system, and we’re happy to have them.”

The Lake Geneva Police Department is considering purchasing body cameras for its officers.

The department currently has squad car cameras but not body cameras.

Lake Geneva officials are set to discuss the issue when its considers the city’s 2022 budget in the fall.

Flashing stop signs installed

In other news, flashing stop signs recently were installed at the intersection of Walworth County Highway B and Indian Hills Road.

Cates said he requested the flashing stop signs, which were recommended by the village’s protection committee, because of the number of accidents that have occurred at that intersection.

“We’ve had a number of accidents there, and some of those accidents have been very severe,” Cates said.

The flashing stop signs recently were installed by the Walworth County Highway Department.

“We worked with the county highway shop to get some put up,” Cates said. “That intersection, although it borders the village, it’s not actually within the Village of Fontana.”

Cates said he hopes the flashing stop signs will be easier for motorists to see and help reduce accidents at the intersection.

“We’ve had a lot of compliments since they were put up,” Cates said. “We’re thankful the county highway department was able to do that for us.”

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