Police get new armor in body cameras

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In an effort to strengthen the ability of Winters police officers to enforce the law with less conflict, police chief John Miller lobbied the city council with the support of staff to purchase new body cameras for the force at the Tuesday, April 17, city council meeting.

After researching top models of cameras in the industry, Miller chose the Axon Body 2 over cameras from Vievu and WatchGuard. Axon, formerly known as Taser International, markets products designed to increase police safety and effectiveness with the slogan, “Protect life.”

“The body cameras that we have are very cheap,” said Miller. “They take little snippets of video, if they work at all.”

Miller presented a promotional video from Axon, which highlighted the camera and presented a dramatization of the power of future capabilities of the device during a response to a violent burglary.

The cost of the product is $19,000, from the Realignment Fund to improve the department. By making the switch, the department will not spend $5,000 to replace the department’s WatchGuard vehicle cameras.

Axon would update the department’s technology at two and a half and five years, with the purchase of the Axon Technology Assurance Plan at a cost of $9,000, which the chief will build into the yearly budget.

According to Miller, the cameras have a 12-hour battery life, are GPS-enabled and keep recording only when officers are actively responding to an incident.

“We will have the ability to ship this stuff to the District Attorney’s office, and it correlates with all the data in the dispatch center,” said Miller.

Miller expects the new technology to have no effect on officer action from his experience using other cameras at his former posts.

“The camera demonstrates and proves that we do our job right way, nothing changed the way I do my job,” said Miller. “They did not precipitate less use, but the studies show they do use less force. People resist less when they’re on camera.”

Staff factored in projected growth for the next five years in requesting 15 cameras; currently the department is home to 11 full time sworn officers and three reserves.

“I think it’s fantastic that we’re looking to get the newest, best camera and I’m thrilled that we can get them,” said Mayor Wade Cowan.

Council Member Jesse Loren favored the purchase for the reduced litigation the product would champion.

“There’s a growing lack of transparency in policing,” said Taylor Buley in public comment. “I don’t view this a security project. What it’s going to do is make it easier for us to trust each other.”

The council approved the purchase unanimously.


Nature Park

With $200,000 and five acres of land that PG&E has given to the city, the Putah Creek Nature Park will see an L-shaped extension to the east of the existing improvements, south of the PG&E training center.

The council unanimously approved the project proposed by the Putah Creek Council under the leadership of Amy Williams who presented the plan for improvements.

The project will provide access to the open space from Grant Avenue near PG&E as well as the east end of Baker Street.

Native oak woodland and upland riparian habitats will house 300 new plants and thousands of grasses and wildflowers for the public to enjoy.

Community engagement is a focus of the project as well — Williams will hold volunteer days with the council and the Center for Land Based learning will educate high school students through their existing SLEWS program to help construct the extension.

A final phase of the project will include placing interpretive signs throughout the entire park providing people with information about the history of native plants and wildlife in the park.

“This will be a three-year project starting this summer. In the first year, we install the bulk of the vegetation,” said Williams. “Next year we will support the planting and take community input and the final year we will do the interpretive portion.”

“This looks like a win-win for everybody,” said Council Member Bill Biasi.


Financial report

The city has another year of tight finances to report after money from proposed development has continued to be delayed from both the downtown hotel and the Fairfield Inn & Suites to be constructed west of I-505  and north of Grant Avenue.

“Last year wasn’t one of our more stellar years for making predictions,” said Director of Financial Management Shelly Gunby. “My crystal ball did not work very well.”

According to Gunby, economic development issues were the cause of $497,000 in defict spending for the 2016-17 fiscal year. The fund balance remains positive at $1,570,513,98.

“Everybody was good on their budgets. It was a revenue problem,” she said.

According to Gunby, the city had also planned on $100,000 from a tax on the PG&E facility which was not actually owed to the city.

“We will miss out on that $100,000, but without that project you don’t have the two hotels and other business that will bring in up to $800,000,” said City Manager John Donlevy.

Gunby projects that the downtown hotel will be filled 55 percent on average while the Fairfield Inn & Suites will see a 70 percent occupancy.


Other items

The council unanimously approved changes to speed limits on Railroad Avenue.

  • The section of road between Anderson Avenue and Niemann Street will be increased from 30 miles per hour to 35 miles per hour, and the section from Niemann Street to the North city limit will be decreased from 50 miles per hour to 45 miles per hour.
  • This proposal was based on traffic studies; the speed limits are set to better reflect the traffic flow.
  • A $1,000,000 cap placed on the former Winters landfill may no longer be necessary. The council unanimously approved $4,000 in an increase a contract with Wallace-Kuhl and Associates to take a better look at the effects of the landfill on groundwater to likely propose a $60,000 monitoring system.

“$60,000 over a couple of years is a heck of a lot better than $1,000,000. This is about as good of news as we could have hoped for,” said Cowan.

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