COLUMBUS, Ind. — The Columbus Police Department is applying some major tech upgrades to help officers and the community stay safer.

Officers with the department will now be equipped with three types of new and improved gear, including updated body cameras and license plate reading technology.

Law enforcement in the area will be able to rely on a new tool to help prevent using lethal force during some of the most intense situations.

Columbus Police Lt. Matt Harris said officers are looking forward to having brand new high-definition cameras inside every patrol car. These state-of-the-art cameras will be capable of automatically scanning any license plate while patrolling.

“Previous to this, our officers had to manually enter in a license plate, which took time, took their eyes off the road, took time to get the license plate returned, whereas this is continuously scanning up to three lanes of traffic,” Harris said.

Harris says the gear is “definitely a game changer for our officers” as it will help officers track stolen cars, wanted suspects, or even missing persons.

Officers will now be wearing the latest body cameras in a bid to improve officer accountability and build transparency with the community.

“We review the body camera footage, which is going to give an accurate representation of what occurred and then we’re able to take the necessary steps from there,” Harris said.

While CPD has used body cameras since 2015, these new models are capable of recording two minutes of video before an officer even activates the recording device.

The department has already witnessed the benefits of this new technology — Harris noted the officers have already made an arrest or two with these enhancements.

“In today’s day and age, in my opinion, you know this is a mandatory piece of equipment,” Harris said.

Police will also get new launchers that can be used as a less-lethal alternative during some of the most intense and difficult situations.

The launchers use sponge bullets which CPD says can be used up to five feet away from a person and cause less harm than bean bag rounds.

“This allows us to de-escalate, this allows us to have time to try to bring the situations safely to a close,” Harris said.

Local residents said they are looking forward to these new improvements.

“I think it’s amazing, I really do,” said Columbus resident Tina Fitch. “I think it will help the city, help the police, it’s faster paced. It’s a wonderful thing.”

The entire Columbus Police Department, which consists of more than 60 officers, will now utilize all three pieces of equipment.

CPD says the launchers cost about $1,400 apiece. The body cameras and tasers cost around $175,000 a year.

The new license plate readers cost between $160,000 and $170,000 every year.