RIVERDALE -- Police Lt. Jim Ebert said his boss, Chief Dave Hansen, recalls duct-taping a small 8-millimeter camera to the dashboard of his patrol car about 20 years ago.
That was the force's first on-board camera, a forerunner to the "dash cams" all patrol cars feature these days.
Times have changed dramatically inside police cruisers, with on-board computers, printers, disc players, upgraded siren and lighting systems, GPS and always-evolving telemetry.
The Riverdale Police Department also appears to be out in front on perhaps the latest thing: in-car cameras that record video and audio of the patrol car's back seat, where handcuffed suspects ride to jail.
Riverdale first had the in-car cameras installed six years ago on its 14 patrol vehicles.
The Ogden Police Department, Weber County's largest patrol force, has yet to implement them fleetwide among its 140 sworn officers.
The Weber County Sheriff's Office has some, but only in the front passenger side of its patrol cars.
"The biggest reason to have them is not evidentiary," Ebert said, "but to protect the officers."
Citizens who come into the department to accuse officers of saying or doing unethical or abusive things in their patrol cars "are surprised when we tell them we have video and audio in the cars," the lieutenant said. "They usually back off. That happens a lot."
Last month, one of the in-car cams became a major evidentiary tool, escalating a misdemeanor marijuana bust to a felony when the suspect offered the arresting officer a bribe during the ride to jail, all caught on video with audio.
The in-car videos have yet to make a splash in any high-profile case in 2nd District Court here, but defense attorneys are aware of them. So far, they have few qualms.
Riverdale Sgt. Curtis Jones said the lawyer for the alleged bribing pot smoker has yet to ask for the disc of that incident, but he had two requests from defense attorneys in one day last week in other cases.
"I had to make a couple copies of the discs," he said. "I would guess we get weekly requests, from the defense and prosecutors."
The department went for the deluxe model for the roughly $200 in-car cameras. The system automatically downloads a feed to a server at police headquarters once the patrol car approaches headquarters.
"It eliminates the middle man, so no one can accuse us tampering with evidence," Jones said.
Rules of evidence promulgated by the courts define how long the archive of the in-car cams must be preserved.
Mike Bouwhuis, coordinator of Weber County's loose alliance of public defenders, said the in-car cameras so far have not been an issue explored among public defender caseloads.
"Off the cuff, I wouldn't see them as any different than any other recording devices, just so they are used consistently, so we're not having to ask why was it used in one case, but not others, which would raise suspicions. Any arbitrary use would be a concern."
In the July trial of his client Brad Ricks on murder charges, veteran defense attorney Roy Cole said the prosecution is planning to use an in-car camera feed of his client cursing himself in the back of a patrol car over what the defense claims is an accidental shooting.
"They think it shows malice; I think it shows remorse," Cole said. His take is, he has no grounds to suppress it.
"There is no expectation of privacy in the back seat of a patrol car."