Borough officers now equipped with cameras
NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck police officers have another weapon at their disposal while on the beat — body cameras.
Borough officers began wearing the lipstick-style cameras in early October, Deputy Police Chief Joshua Bernegger said. Officers wear-tested them earlier this year. The cameras, which are made by the Arizona-based TASER International, Inc., are worn either on a lapel or a pair of sunglasses so it can record from the officer’s point of view.
Since police have only been using the cameras for roughly two months, it’s too early to determine the real impact the cameras will have on the department, he said. However, Bernegger added, things have gone well so far.
“It’s going well. Like any new technology there’s a learning curve that’s going to be involved in its use,” Bernegger said.
Bernegger could not discuss any specific case where the cameras have been used thus far.
The borough budgeted $16,000 for the cameras this year. The department bought 12 cameras at $1,000 a piece, and the additional $4,000 pays for storage space on a server for three years. Each officer on duty for all three shifts wears a camera, according to Bernegger.
The department was considering buying dashboard cameras for the police cruisers. But, the department opted for the body cameras because dashboard cameras only record what is in front of the cruisers.
The cameras were purchased earlier this year, but the department waited until a policy was in place regarding the usage of the cameras before officers began to wear them on duty.
Bernegger said the policy requires officers to wear the cameras at all times during their shifts. However, the policy leaves the decision of when to activate the camera up to the discretion of the officer.
“Officers will make every effort to activate cameras in certain situations if possible,” Bernegger said.
According to Bernegger those situations include traffic stops, if a driver is driving impaired, any vehicle pursuits or failures to yield, searches of people, vehicles or structures, or whenever an investigation is leading toward an imminent arrest.
“Certainly we’d like to have the taking into custody on record,” Bernegger said.
Bernegger said the officers are also recommended to use the cameras whenever a subject displays irrational or aggressive behaviors. Officers are also able to use the cameras to record accident scenes, while taking any witness statements, while reading someone his or her Miranda Rights or during any interrogations, he added.
Steven Smith, chairman of the Police Commission, said the cameras will help minimize potential liability problems that could arise for the department.
“This is a good thing to protect our citizens as well as our officers,” Smith said.
Bernegger added the cameras have also been helpful when officers’ fill out their reports since they are able to view exactly what happened.
“It has been very helpful in their investigations,” Bernegger said. “What we’d get before the cameras is an officer’s best recollection and what they put in their police report.”
Lt. Bryan Cammarata said one important feature of the cameras is the fact that they have a continuous 30 second buffer. When an officer activates the camera, it also captures what happened during the previous 30 seconds. This is useful when an officer sees a car running a stop sign or making other traffic violations, Cammarata said.
Bernegger said one of the biggest concerns regarding the cameras is the retention of video that the officers shoot.
All video is stored on an offsite server. The server allots the department a certain amount of space. This means that not every video shot is able to be kept forever.
Bernegger said any video that has not been classified with any data is only kept for 90 days before it is deleted from the server. Videos that have been classified as important are stored on the server until they are no longer deemed to be of any use, he said.
Cammarata said officers can use an app on their smartphones to access the video to add data, such as a person’s name or type of car involved in an accident. The department can search for uploaded videos via date, which officer shot the video, or any information that has been attached to the video, he said.
Bernegger said that, since there is no in-house infrastructure, videos can only be accessed by certain computers in the department. Besides making notes the officers are unable to edit or manipulate the videos, he said.
Police Chief Christopher Edson said the cameras are a step in the right direction for the department.
“As society becomes more technologically complex law enforcement has an obligation to provide the best technology available to the officers,” Edson said.