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City police body cams planned this summer~ RH 1-27-16

City police body cams planned this summer
By Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli
STAFF WRITER | January 27, 2016

Robert Layman / Staff Photo Rutland City Police Chief Brian Kilcullen, left, and Commander David Covell look through a body camera plan at the police station Tuesday.
Police body cameras, touted nationally as the cure for brutality and the elixir of improved police and community relationships, are tools, not miraculous interventions, say experts.
“It better documents the interaction with officers. It is a good investigative tool — it’s good in court and can create a calming effect (on the scene),” said Rutland City Police Commander David Covell. “The body cam is not going to capture everything. But it is a much bigger piece of the puzzle.”
The city police force has been exploring officer-worn cameras for the department over the last year and initially thought they would be in place this month.
But because of technology advances and administrative tasks associated with employing their use, city police will not don the lapel-worn or eyeglass-attached cameras until early summer, Chief Brian Kilcullen said Tuesday.
The delay, in part, comes from technology upgrades, first slated for a fall 2015 release. But now developers point to an April deadline, he said. Realistically, Kilcullen said he’s looking to June or July.
“We could go to older technology,” he said. “But the upgrade syncs the body mic with the in-car video, not two separate files.”
The upgrades may cost more, said Covell, who was acting chief when the department began body-cam planning.
But even with upgrades, Sgt. Gregory Sheldon said three Justice Department grants will pick up the tab of about $40,000 for 30 cameras, or one per officer per shift.
As part of President Barack Obama’s Community Policing Initiative, a new Body-Worn Camera Partnership Program would provide a 50 percent match to states and localities that purchase body cameras and storage.
According to the White House, the proposed $75 million investment, over three years, could help purchase 50,000 body cameras.
In addition to making sure they have access to the latest technology for the officer-worn cameras, city police must consider policies regarding officer usage, data storage, public access to records and privacy.
“I plan on speaking with other agencies that have implemented body cams and then the state regarding records laws,” Kilcullen said.
Although body cameras have been in use around the country for only three years, some cities have already implemented the technology.
Several early studies have shown success.
An often-quoted Cambridge University study of a small police department in Rialto, Calif., said that among 66 officers there was a 60 percent reduction in officers’ use-of-force incidents following camera deployment; half the number of such incidents for shifts without cameras; and an 88 percent reduction in number of citizen complaints in the first year.
An Arizona State University study found that during the first eight months of deployment, the officers without the cameras had almost three times as many citgizen complaints as the officers who wore the cameras.
Also, the study found that the officers assigned cameras had 40 percent fewer total complaints and 75 percent fewer use-of-force complaints during the pilot program.
“It is far from clear if this will be a good development for policing, since there has been a tendency to adopt these devices without a meaningful debate and because everyone is doing it,” said Eugene O’Donnell, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. O’Donnell began his career as a Brooklyn police officer.
O’Donnell refers to a study with opposite results.
“The industry has sold these hard and it dominates the dialogue,” he said via email from Africa. “One study shows the police in one jurisdiction make more arrests when on camera because it seems they feel the need to be covered should someone make an allegation and they used force, for example, or ordered someone to do something, but took no formal action.”
Denver City Police began a staged rollout this month; 100 officers a month will get body cameras until they reach 800 officers later this year.
“The key to a good officer-worn camera program, is the foundational work to set it in place,” said Commander Magen Dodge of the Denver Police Department.
He was involved in early studies and a pilot program for Denver officers. “You have to include city attorneys, district attorneys to discuss how you will get it into evidence,” he said. “All players have to be brought to the table.”
During a six-month pilot in 2014, 110 Denver officers got familiar with the technology.
“We picked our busiest district where there is nightclub activity,” Commander Barb Archer said in an interview Tuesday. “At first, we found our officers were leery about the cameras. I think because it is a new technology. But then they liked it. … It became a tool.”
A key to success, said Archer, was the individual training for officers.
At roll call, when their shift starts, Archer said they spend two hours with each officer. They teach the officers about the department use policy and officers even get to practice using cams, she said.
in Rutland, Kilcullen talked about issues related to when the officers turn on their cameras, privacy and open records laws and how long the department would need to store data.
“By definition it becomes a record and then is subject to public access,” he said. “Then there are privacy issues about who is looking at the footage.”
The executive director of the ACLU in Vermont said the state’s public records law offers a solution.
“We think the cameras should be on all the time,” Allen Gilbert said Tuesday. “And we actually think that Vermont’s current public record statute is pretty robust … it was revised three years ago and is good for making a determination when police should disclose a record.”
Kilcullen said city police still has time to put these policies and procedures in place before the upgraded cameras are available.
“Our policy will dictate when they are used and we will follow public records policies,” he said. “The type of record will dictate retention.”
kathleen.phalentomaselli @rutlandherald.com

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