NY Bar: All police officers should wear cameras | Local News

ALBANY – New York State Police have completed their distribution of 3,000 body cameras to soldiers from Long Island to Niagara County.

But the requirement imposed by legislation enacted in 2020 did not extend to the hundreds of municipal police departments and sheriff’s departments. Many of them have voluntarily invested in body cameras, but many more have yet to take that step.

Now, the New York Bar Association is calling on state officials to require all state police officers, as well as patrol cars, to be equipped with cameras.

“We should not rely on citizens to police law enforcement officers who are paid to serve them,” association president T. Andrew Brown said in an essay on the subject.

The group of lawyers urges that “all public interactions with the police must be recorded.

Patrick Phelan, director of the New York State Police Chiefs Association, said body cameras have proven beneficial to many police departments because they discourage false allegations, including those made against police officers.

But Phelan argued that police departments shouldn’t be hit with a state requirement to equip officers with the equipment unless the state is willing to foot the bill.

“Every time you go to mandate equipment, you have to pay for it,” Phelan said, noting that in addition to equipment costs, there are costs for digital storage of video footage captured by the devices as well as training costs.

State Police Superintendent. Kevin Bruen, answering questions from lawmakers at a recent hearing, said the introduction of body cameras had created complications for the agency in that procedures had to be put in place to manage video files and redact the recordings if necessary before their publication after receipt. a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

But overall, the agency’s experiences with the technology have been “very good,” Bruen said.

“The soldiers have accepted it and are actually adopting it,” Bruen said. “It’s been very helpful so far.”

He added: “I really wish people could watch the videos I’ve been watching randomly. I see soldiers helping people and being professional.”

Delaware County Sheriff Craig DuMond also described body cameras as an asset to his agency’s deputies.

“Every time they have an interaction with the public, they turn on their body cameras,” DuMond said.

Video files are stored for 90 days after they are first logged in, although those that become evidence in a case are retained, the sheriff said.

The agency contracted with a company for $11,300 a year to manage file storage, he said.

As for the benefits of having the devices, DuMond said, “It protects us as an agency and it protects the public from false claims.”

When footage can be retrieved following an allegation of misconduct against an officer, DuMond said reviewing the footage reveals in a very high percentage of cases that the officer acted appropriately.

Complaints against state troopers have declined since the advent of body cameras, said Thomas Mungeer, president of the New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association.

“I think it was a valuable tool, and it helped the soldiers far more than it hurt them,” Mungeer said.

The cameras are designed to activate automatically when a patrol car’s emergency lights are turned on or when soldiers pull out their handguns or Tasers, he noted.

The head of the bar association said in a commentary published by the New York Daily News that rural police departments have been slow to equip officers with cameras.

“A lot of departments say they can’t afford the camera costs and the storage fees,” Brown said. “And yet the use of body cameras is so extensive that companies have paid for the cameras that police departments say they can’t afford.”

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