In Collin County, police may not be the only city employees with body cameras. Animal services officers in Plano are now equipped with body cameras to record their interactions with people and animals on calls. The officers, who are civilian employees, are required to turn the camera on from the time they exit their vehicle to when they get back in and complete a call.
Plano Animal Services Director Jamey Cantrell said most calls are routine, but some have become volatile.
“People often will get very upset and angry with us because we are an enforcement agency and we have to come and tell them you can’t do this with your pet,” Cantrell said. “I’ve been spit on, I’ve been swung at, I’ve been called every name in the book.”
Last week, animal services in Plano equipped the department with eight body cameras – enough for each animal services patrol unit. The HD cameras are the same ones used by the Plano Police Department. The police department purchased around 300 body cameras for patrol officers last year and expect 120 more to be added this year.
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Cantrell said it cost $13,530 for the eight cameras, docking station and other equipment to expand body camera operations to animal services.
“I am so excited we have it now because we do have proof and we can use it as evidence,” said Animal Services Officer Leticia Rippy.
Rippy said she welcomed the body cameras for their potential to help in animal cruelty investigations.
“Especially right now with the cruelty cases of animals left in hot cars, we can see their reaction of when we show up of how they’re panting stuff like that,” explained Rippy.
Cantrell said officers are trained to notify individuals they are being recorded on a body camera.
The footage can also be used to resolve a dispute if there’s a complaint about an officer.
“The cameras really allow us to see exactly what was said, exactly what was done so we can make sure that they are providing the level of service that we require,” Cantrell said.
Body cameras for animal control aren’t common, but the trend may shift.
Frisco’s animal services began equipping six officers and one supervisor last March.
Other cities around the country have considered expanding body camera programs to other public employees who interact with the public, including code and parking enforcement officers.
“I personally don’t see that as a bad thing,” Cantrell said. Every time you have public interaction, to me, you want there to be some sort of accountability for the staff members and the citizens as well.”