The Lafayette Police Department began equipping officers with body cameras this week in a trial run before issuing the devices to every uniformed officer in the department.
Body cameras, which are worn on an officer's chest and record interactions when the officer responds to a call, are becoming increasing common in departments across the U.S.
"What's better than having something on video?" said newly appointed Lafayette Police Chief Toby Aguillard, arguing the new body cameras can offer clear answers when questions arise about an officer's conduct. "It's good for everybody."
He said 20 officers will be outfitted with the new cameras by the end of the week in the first phase of the rollout.
The plan is to work out the kinks of using the devices before equipping additional officers, Aguillard said.
The department has about 60 body cameras and another 90 are on order and expected to arrive in March.
"Anyone wearing a uniform will have a body camera," said Deputy Chief Reginald Thomas.
The expectation is that officers will use the cameras to record most of their interactions, with the exception of responses that don't involve a complaint of criminal activity, such as helping a motorist move a car out of the road, Thomas said.
If one officer activates his or her camera, the cameras of any other officers in the immediate area or any officer who arrives at the scene will automatically activate.
Thomas said the body cameras also are turned on automatically when officers activate the emergency lights on their cruisers.
"Everything works together," he said.
The department is moving forward with a related program to mount crime cameras on utility poles throughout the city.
Thomas said the department installed 29 crime cameras this year, and plans to put in another 23 cameras.
Officers can monitor the surveillance cameras from the police station, and the video footage will be stored on computer servers at the station for review during investigations.