Nearly a dozen Connecticut police departments have officers wearing tiny cameras to record their interactions with the public, but in many cases the devices are being rolled out faster than departments are able to create policies to govern their use.
Southington started uses 10 body cameras last September. And, as with anything new, there was some trepidation at the beginning for the officers.
How is it going to be used? When is it going to be used? What are the conditions of the use?
Currently, there are no national or state policies in place to regulate when an officer can hit the record button. But, Southington records only requires its officers to record only three types of events..
We used it on motor vehicle stops to see how it worked,” said Captain Lowell DePalma, who added that Southington also uses the cameras to record vehicle searches and canines calls.
Officer Thomas Gorr, a 16 year veteran of the Southington Police Department, says using the body camera has really become second nature. And, yes, he has forgotten to turn it on and off, on occasion, but hasn’t been burned to this point.
“I was the test guy by wearing it for a couple of months before everybody else started wearing them,” said Gorr.
He says he treats people he stops with respect. So, he’s not concerned about them making false claims. Still, he’s happy he has the body cam.
“I walk up to a car and you know there’s someone across the street with their cell phone out and you can see them holding it up like they’re recording you,” Gorr said.
While Southington doesn’t yet have results in, the police department in Rialto, California recently concluded a one-year study that showed an 89% drop in complaints against officers wearing body cameras.
The Berlin Police Department, which recently purchased eight cameras, expects to have them in service by mid-May.