On May 20, 2010, police officer Bill Evans (pictured above left) stopped a white van with Ohio license plates at 11:36 a.m. on I-40 in West Memphis. Soon after, Office Brandon Paudert (pictured below right), the police chief’s son, joined him at the stop on an off-ramp—mile marker 275—near College Boulevard. Both Evans, 38, and Paudert, 39, were members of a criminal interdiction team, which stops cars in a city where two interstates meet. “There are lots of drug dealers and criminal elements passing through that city," said Oakland Police Chief Rick Jewell, a former assistant chief in West Memphis. "There's a lot of drugs and a lot of money.” Word has it that drug interdiction is dangerous business.
A few minutes later, one of the two suspects wrestled Evans to the ground. A gunshot from an AK-47 followed and both officers went down. The suspects sped away. Chief Paudert arrived on the scene to find his son, a seven-year veteran with the West Memphis force, shot in the head and the neck, lying dead on the pavement with his service weapon in hand. Evans was airlifted to the Regional Medical Center in Memphis but died of gunshot wounds.
A manhunt ensued and 90 minutes or so later, the white minivan was spotted at a local Walmart. Lots of gunfire was exchanged, leaving Crittenden County Sheriff Dick Busby shot in the arm and his chief deputy, W.A. Wren, shot in the abdomen. The suspects, identified as Jerry Kane, 45, and his son Joseph, 16, were both killed. An overhead video of the Walmart parking lot shootout is on YouTube.
But another important piece of evidence, an eyewitness, is a dash cam video shot from a police SUV that shows the Kane teenager firing an AK-47 before exiting with his father.
According to the January issue of Evidence Technology Magazine, the significance of video as evidence during police murder investigations has played out multiple times across the United States. Tampa, Florida also saw Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab murdered during a traffic stop. Apparently, Kocab’s video system recorded the events leading up to the killing—an audio version as well of the killer, a woman in his company, which led to identification information.
In a recent survey of police agencies nationwide, 94 percent of respondents said they feel that, “Mobile video recording is a technology that is here to stay.”
In 2010, 61 officers were murdered by gunfire and on-duty deaths were up last year by 26 percent—that’s high. This year, the statistics are getting off to a worse start as 11 officers were shot in a single 24-hour period in January.
More Bad News
Even though an increasing number of officer deaths have been caught on dashboard cameras, several problems exist. To begin, many times the images are dicey. Sometimes the identification ratio is nonexistent. Alan Slamon, President of the Law Enforcement & Emergency Services Association (LEVA), which trains police analysts, claims that it is an uphill battle because there are no regulation standards for operation, format or storage, rendering many systems difficult if not impossible to analyze.
And under the present economic downturn and restraints, when cities are laying off policemen, they cannot afford to train or maintain upkeep of a video-management system. There are only fifteen vendors offering in-car video police recording systems where originally 40 firms existed six years ago.
On a brighter note, the National Institute of Justice is working on rectifying the standards by supplying a selection and application guide for law enforcement agencies.
One other option that is pretty cool is the body-worn camera system. Post Falls, Idaho police department uses both the in-car camera and the body type. Police Chief Scot Haug estimates that his officers spend less time in court and the department gets fewer complaints from the public because the recorder catches such a perfect record. The body-worn system is produced by VieVu, a Seattle, Washington, company and sells for around $750. When motor officers need to leave their vehicles it gives a whole new perspective.
In Memory Of
Officer Thomas William (Bill) Evans was a nine-year veteran of the department, a was a member of the Drug Interdiction Unit, and the nephew of the West Memphis Chief of Police. He is survived by his two children.