Southaven Police Department seal

Southaven city officials have taken the first step toward equipping its police officers with body cameras, becoming the largest Mid-South community outside of Memphis to have the equipment in use. 

Aldermen at their meeting Tuesday evening voted to authorize the police department to enter into a demonstration contract with Axon, one of the national leaders in that product area.

Axon is a company based in Scottsdale, Arizona that makes a number of products for public safety and law enforcement, including cameras and tasers. The company originated as TASER in 1993.

Police Chief Macon Moore said the department will have the use of six Axon body cameras and two in-vehicle cameras for about a month’s time.

“It’s a field test agreement for body cameras,” Moore said. “We’ll test these cameras for 30 days and tonight was getting the board’s permission to test with Axon.”

Moore pointed out Axon is not the only company being looked at, saying, “we’re going to test 4-5 different vendors. We get their equipment for 30 days.”

The police chief said the department has been formulating policies about body cameras and their use, so the test period is the next step in the process.

Another part of the research which will be determined when the city actually decides what equipment to sign a lease agreement with is the cost. Moore said the demo period will help determine what the city will get at a cost it can afford.

“We have no idea what we are looking at cost-wise,” said Moore. “Until we test the equipment we don’t know what different variations they offer.”

Southaven will also look at leasing Cloud storage for the video that comes from the cameras and state law covers what can be redacted or kept from the public.

“We’re just excited to get this process going,” Moore said. “It’s a win-win for everybody. It protects the officers from complaints from the citizens. It protects the citizens from mistreatment by the officers.”

There was no discussion about the issue when it came up for a Board of Aldermen vote Tuesday evening, which was unanimous with only Alderman at-Large William Brooks not attending the meeting.

Mayor Darren Musselwhite, while not specifically addressing recent incidents in the past few years, said the move will help strengthen the city’s position in defense of complaints against the police department.

“It’s a big goal to eventually have cameras on all of our officers,” Musselwhite said. “It will uphold a standard of professionalism with our police but it also serves to protect our police as well. In the past two years in Southaven, we have faced some ridiculously false accusations about our police.”

The demo period will continue over the next few months followed by a final agreement with a vendor being signed. Southaven officers could have cameras in use on all patrols sometime early in 2021.

Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.