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OKLAHOMA CITY — It sounds like every municipality’s dream come true. Help reduce criminal violence and save bundles of budget money on tight community budgets. Well, it’s happening at the Oklahoma County Detention Center in Oklahoma City.
The center, at 13-stories tall, falls under the jurisdiction of the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office and its sheriff, John Whetsell, who oversee the largest bureau in the agency with about 450 employees and up to 2,700 inmates. The 268,000-square-foot facility is the largest detention facility in Oklahoma.
With that number of inmates, who include both males and females, obviously problems could arise both among the incarcerated, with altercations once averaging about 200 per month, as well as attempted attacks on their guards. In an effort to reduce violence and costs, the center installed a new monitoring system of its cell pods and various other inmate areas. The Avigilon HD Surveillance System keeps 24-hour track of the goings-on in the facility and because of somewhat reduced personnel by not having a security guard in each pod, reduced tort claims, since most everything is captured on cameras that help challenge frivolous lawsuits and other costs, has resulted in an estimated savings to the county of about $10 million.
With more than 35 years in law enforcement including more than 25 with the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office, Capt. David Baisden, 57, gives the hi- to hi-tech. His technology work has helped propel him into the chairman’s position of the Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association and he is one of five representatives on the U.S. Department of Justice Technology Committee. He knows that the center’s previous video cameras were never in the right place at the right time to capture incidents and were inadequate. That’s now changed with the new HD system, according to Baisden.
By installing the Avigion system, the sheriff’s office was able to meet the U.S. Department of Justice mandates to achieve improved security and cut costs such as the possibility the facility might have to hire 200 additional people.
Because of budget constraints, “hiring 200 additional people, there was just no way we could have done it,” Baisden said. “So the sheriff said we’re going to have to do it with it technology.”
The new cameras are in color to enhance images. Baisden did internet searches to find systems with hi-def pixel images and settled on Avigion to replace their aging system after telling their representative that they “didn’t have deep pockets” because of the department’s budget constraints. But the department “got their dollars together,” Baisden said, and got the system into place. On January 1, 2010, the system Baisden and his team had put together went live.
On that same day in a high-security cell, “we captured our first incident where an inmate went face-to-face with a detention officer,” Baisden said, adding that the inmate knocked out the officer. But with the new cameras, there was no question of who was at fault.
“And we use that in training so you know not what not to do,” Baisden said.
And the use of video in lawsuits?
“Obviously, it went from a situation where it was inconclusive to irrefutable,” Baisden said. “Video speaks volumes. The bottom line is it’s irrefutable. I mean, you can’t say that somebody else did something because you can go back to every frame.
“It’s literally changed our lives” at the detention center, he said.
Photo Credit : Capt. David Baisden