MYRTLE POINT — In an effort to increase transparency and prevent confrontational interactions, the Myrtle Point Police Department equipped its patrol officers earlier this year with new state-of-the-art body cameras.
The cameras, which arrived this past summer, provide a number of benefits to its department, including adding an extra layer of accountability and encouraging de-escalation practices, said Myrtle Point Police Officer Nate Harris.
Myrtle Point Police Officer Nate Harris prepares for a patrol Wednesday.
With five new cameras, extended battery packs and a multi-unit charger, which simultaneously charges and uploads footage wirelessly, the department has been able to collect and provide valuable video evidence for prosecutors on a number of its cases, said Harris.
“Working with the (Coos County) District Attorney’s Office anytime we send over a criminal report we have to attach that footage,” he said. “They can review it and see exactly what we saw … having the body cameras provides us the ability to say this is exactly how the contact went.”
According to Harris, the body cameras also provide additional training opportunities for officers as footage can be reviewed and their interactions evaluated.
For years, due to budgetary restrictions the department was unable to purchase the body cameras and its accompanying software system.
Last November, led by their faith and commitment to giving back to their community, the congregation of the historic Myrtle Point First Christian Church rallied, along with the community at large to raise funds to purchase the much-needed body cameras.
“We set a goal and on Thanksgiving weekend we started our ‘Big Give Fundraiser,’” said First Christian Church lead pastor Lloyd Pounds. “We talked about how during Christmastime we often go out and buy nice things for ourselves or for other people that we love, but what if we all took some of our resources that God has given us and just use them to bless someone else in the community?”
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With that in mind, the church set out to raise $13,000 for the new cameras as well as an additional $1,000 to support missionaries in Zimbabwe who work to help women from abused or troubled backgrounds develop job skills, said Pounds.
At its inaugural “Big Give Fundraiser” celebration in February, the church announced it was able to raise more than $17,000.
Myrtle Point Police Officer Nate Harris prepares his cruiser for a patrol Wednesday in Myrtle Point. Thanks to a fundraiser by the Myrtle Poin…
In addition to the countless community members who donated, the Myrtle Point Ministerial Association and the Myrtle Point Rotary Club also donated funds for maintenance costs of the body cameras for the next five years.
“We’ve got some really good officers on duty who serve our community well and who we’re very grateful for,” said Pounds. “It’s our hope that people in the community see how much we love this area and how much we want to be an active part of it. We want to make a big difference here and as Christians it’s our way of honoring and showing Jesus’ love to other people.”
With its second annual “Big Give Fundraiser” kicking off this weekend, Pounds said the church is hoping this year to raise money to remodel its sanctuary area and equip its dining hall with air conditioning. The hall is often used by a number of different community organizations.
As the community rallied together to show its support for the body cameras, Harris said enough funds were raised to purchase a camera for each Myrtle Point police officer as well as an extra camera for its reserve officer.
“One of the fortunate parts of being in a small town is you get to know people and you get to partner with community members,” said Harris. “Being able to partner with the church to make this happen I think was really great.”