OPD: 160 police body cams arrive next week

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- Gone are the days of VHS tapes preserving evidence in a police chase. In this digital age – it’s about clouds and servers. Next week marks another milestone in the transparency department for Omaha police. For years, this has been the best way for the public to review police work in action: from a dashcam of a police cruiser. But if we wanted to see something that didn’t happen in front of the car – we were often out of luck. That is slowly changing.

Next week, 160 additional Omaha police officers will be outfitted with body cameras bringing the total to 275 officers.

“We’ll be at full deployment before the end of the year,” said Police Chief Todd Schmaderer.

Investigators will have several angles at their disposal from uniform patrol to Gang Unit officers. For example – when Omaha police caught up to the man in a stolen car who had just shot and killed Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Burbridge – a sergeant’s cruiser camera recorded everything. And officers on the ground offered other angles with their body cameras.

The body cameras Omaha Police use are automatic – meaning it comes on when an officer turns on the emergency lights or readies a Taser or draws a gun.

“It’s amazing when I see the footage and I see it a lot in pursuit reviews, internal affairs, in the course of criminal investigation,” said Schmaderer. “I can say 999 out of 1,000 times, it shows officers acting professionally and carrying them with the professional duty the citizens of Omaha would be proud of.”

The body cam video automatically downloads at the precinct and a separate unit – with the easy to remember name “DREAM” team – manages the 40,000 to 50,000 videos that come in every month.

So what does the “DREAM” department stand for? It’s an acronym for Digitally Recorded Evidence Access Management. The unit is located in the basement at central police headquarters.