Dutchess will split cost of police body camera extension at local agencies

Dutchess is pushing for every police department in the county to adopt body-worn camera technology and offering to share the cost of starting the programs.

The county says it could end up spending about $775,000 on the program if each regional agency signs on, based on an estimated assessment of each agency’s needs.

The program was officially offered to municipalities late last week through a letter sent by County Executive Marc Molinaro, in which everyone had until September 9 to join the program. The county would make a one-time payment to cover start-up costs and two years of a set of standard body cameras per unit ordered. However, to participate, municipalities must commit to a five-year contract with the system provider.

The offer comes as the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office prepares to roll out its own body camera program, previously approved in the county’s 2022 budget, this fall.

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The initiative dates back to the county’s police reform and modernization plan designed in early 2021, which all police departments were required to submit to the state following the social justice movement that gained momentum. magnitude in the summer of 2020. In it, the sheriff’s office announced an intention to equip each of its officers of all ranks with a camera, the images of which “will be stored for the use of the district attorney , the judiciary or the public”.

Acting Sheriff Kirk Imperati said the additional tool is important for transparency and will “help build trust” with the community.

“I think it’s an officer safety issue, one, and a public safety issue, two,” he said. “We’re just happy that it’s finally coming to fruition.”

The county’s plan also comes in a year in which local police departments have been involved in two incidents in which officers hit civilians with gunfire, once in Fishkill in February and a fatal incident in Hyde Park in April. Neither agency has body cameras, although in both incidents state police officers did.

The Town of Poughkeepsie, Town of Beacon, and Village of Wappingers Falls are among the few Dutchess agencies that use body cameras; Fishkill announced earlier this year that it was on track to receive a $600,000 federal grant to implement the technology.

What the department offers

Molinaro, in his letter dated Aug. 12 to mayors, city supervisors and police chiefs, outlined a “collaborative joint purchase” of body cameras, pending legislative approval in October after finalizing plans. a statement of expenses.

The county is offering to pay each agency $2,000 in start-up costs and $2,800 per body-worn camera unit ordered, which Molinaro says “equals the cost of two years of a standard plan (body-worn camera ) which included a camera, software, hardware, storage and other essential features. The technology provider offers “highly customized” packages, which can cause the annual cost to vary significantly for each municipality, said county executive office spokeswoman Colleen Pillus. The amount the county would give to the agency would not change.

According to Molinaro’s letter, each agency would receive a 3% discount with the supplier as part of the group purchase, and dash cams are also available. He noted that “using a single vendor provides immense time and cost savings related to storing and sharing evidence.”

Molinaro’s office didn’t say whether it set a cap on the number of units an agency could order, but the county’s emergency response division “worked with each municipality to assess their estimated needs ( in cameras)”.

Poughkeepsie City Police officers, left to right, Kevin Van Wagner and Mike Braren wear body cameras while patrolling Main Street on February 03, 2020.

To participate, agencies are required to submit an estimate of the number of units the county needs by September 9, enter into an intermunicipal agreement with the county by December 15, and show the county “a five-year agreement.” years fully performed” with the supplier, from January 1, before December 15.

While the county would pay enough to cover two years of a standard unit, the agency would be responsible for the remaining three, with an estimated standard cost of $1,400 per unit, per year, before any upgrades.

The county noted that the city of Poughkeepsie has already requested 65 units of body-worn cameras, which expands the existing program the city implemented in January 2020 with 61 officers equipped with cameras. No other agency had yet officially opted in to Thursday night, although Molinaro’s office said it believed others would, based on “preliminary discussions.”

Poughkeepsie Police Chief Thomas Pape in the county statement called the camera system “vital equipment that will enhance our ability to build trust between our officers and the communities they serve.”

Beginning of the Sheriff’s Office Program

Meanwhile, Imperati said the sheriff’s office will turn on its cameras in October, if not September.

While the department’s ranks include 115 full-time deputy sheriffs, he said the 70 cameras the office receives is enough to allow each of them to have a unit for every shift. This will include the 12 School Resource Officers serving in six area school districts and Dutchess BOCES this school year.

They will be required to operate them when interacting with the public. While the modernization plan noted that there would be “serious consequences for intentionally violating” this policy, Imperati said the severity of this discipline would be dictated by the situation.

The department also receives 32 cameras for correctional officers.

“Transparency, community awareness, accountability, public safety and training form the foundation of our office’s success,” Imperati said in the county release, “and we look forward to taking this next step in the modernization of our organization”.

Mike Benischek: 845-437-4722, [email protected]

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