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Law breakers beware: Calipatria equips squad cars with video equipment, radar

April 07, 2001|By MARIO RENTERÍA, Staff Writer

CALIPATRIA — Law breakers beware.

The Calipatria Police Department has a few new additions to its police force that are making the prosecution of suspected perpetrators easier.

Next time one tries to argue his or her way out of a speeding ticket or some other infraction, one should think twice because Calipatria police officers will likely be taping every word said and every move made.

Police have added audio and video equipment and interface radar to the department's squad cars.

The equipment includes cameras, microphones and radars mounted in the front and rear of the squad cars to detect speeders from two directions. Officers have been using their new toys for about a month.

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"Calipatria's police (department) is going high tech," said Police Chief Reggie Gomez with a chuckle.

Gomez said the equipment was paid for through a more than $100,000 state Law Enforcement and Equipment Procurement grant awarded to the city late last year.

Installed in Calipatria's three squad cars, the equipment cost the department $28,000. That price also includes radar and camera equipment for a fourth vehicle coming to the Police Department this summer.

Gomez said the remainder of the $100,000 is being used for miscellaneous equipment.

Of the new high tech equipment, Gomez said, "It's made everything easier."

He said before the cameras were installed he would receive a lot of complaints from residents that officers were rude and inconsiderate to those they stopped.

"It's brought it down to zero," said Gomez of the complaints.

He added the equipment also is being used in officer training.

An officer can see if he has made an unsafe move when responding to an incident, said Gomez.

As for the interface radar, it can clock the speeds of cars both approaching and going away from the patrol vehicle.

By simply pushing a button, Gomez said the radar is useful in picking up the speed of those motorists who speed away after passing a squad car.

He added the speeds of both the police vehicle and the suspected speeder are recorded by the camera.

Gomez said Calipatria's vehicles are the only squad cars in the Imperial Valley to have this kind of equipment.

The microphone has a recording radius of 1,000 feet so officers can go into a building or a house, or chase after a suspect, and still be recorded by the camera's audio component.

The video camera also has a range of 1,000 feet. It has an automatic focus so officers can zoom in on the license plate of a vehicle. The camera can move in a number of different directions and angles so a wide area can be recorded.

Gomez told a reporter of a humorous incident recently caught on tape.

A man who was clearly intoxicated, Gomez said, was walking along a road in Calipatria when an officer pulled over to interview him. The drunken man had his pants unzipped and as the officer told him about his pants, the man allegedly exposed himself to the officer, he added.

It was all caught on tape, Gomez said.

He said a recent incident where the audio equipment came in handy involved two men pulled over by an officer for a traffic violation. The officer suspected narcotics might be in the car.

Gomez said the officer asked and was granted permission by the owner of the car to search the vehicle. Narcotics were found and both men in the vehicle were placed in the back of the squad car.

While the officer was not in the car, one suspect allegedly told his partner he was going to "kill" the officer when he had a chance.

Both were arrested on narcotics charges and one received additional threat charges. The conversation between the two was caught on tape as well.

"It's a great law enforcement tool that I recommend to every police department," said Gomez.

Gomez said he is the only person with access to the tape recorder placed in the trunks of the Police Department's squad cars.

Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 337-3435.

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