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Redwood City Police Now use Video-text Chat

July 19, 2012

The Redwood City, Calif. police department is now using the latest technology, like video and text chat, to allow its community members access to real-time interactive video chats directly with a Redwood City police officer.

Along with gun and taser, the police officers are given the telephone headset, computer screen and video camera to allow the residents to have a chat with an officer online to deal with anything except a life-threatening emergency.

Redwood City police Officer Steve Barker said, "This is like a virtual police officer."

"The beauty of this program is that residents could do this from their homes, from school, from work, anywhere that they have a laptop or desktop with something as simple as a camera on it," said Police Chief JR Gamez, who came up with the idea after becoming Redwood City's top cop in December. "They'll be able to interact with our officers."

Barker was assigned to the program after hurting his hand while arresting a suspect. No officers are pulled from the streets to live-chat.

In addition to these facilities, anyone, not just Redwood City residents, can chat with an officer, through audio, video or via texts on a computer screen. The chats aren't recorded, and users can't be traced.

"It's another tool that can be useful in law enforcement and another way to allow the citizens to have contact with a police officer," Barker said. "Not every citizen wants a patrol car to roll up in front of their house."

The video chat program is usually in session from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. The department plans to expand the program to include weekends and evenings and could add bilingual officers if there's a need, police said.

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Edited by Brooke Neuman