The Connecticut state legislature will soon vote on a bill that would provide the police departments of three local cities with body cameras.
The bill was first introduced to the state Senate’s Public Safety Committee in January, and it passed last Thursday with a 20–3 consensus to advance the bill to the full legislature. If passed by the Legislature, the bill would enact a yearlong pilot program that would provide three Connecticut police departments with wearable body cameras. The three departments would be selected by Connecticut’s Commissioner for Emergency Services and Public Safety, though the bill requires that one of those participating cities have over 124,000 residents, a stipulation that is met by only three cities in the state: Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford.
State Sen. Martin Looney, D-New Haven, Hamden and North Haven, introduced the bill to the committee earlier this year. In his testimony before the committee in February, Looney outlined several benefits to such a program.
“There is some evidence that implementation of body cameras can be beneficial both to the police officers wearing them and to the citizens whom they serve,” Looney said.
Looking to garner votes for the bill, Looney cited other American cities that benefited from similar programs. He also referenced a study that found an 88 percent reduction in the number of complaints filed against police officers during the first year of a body camera pilot program in Rialto, California. That study, conducted by the Rialto Police Department, also reported a 60 percent drop in the use of force by law enforcement during the first year of the program.
The bill’s primary purpose is to conduct the proper research in order to later develop effective legislation to standardize the use of body cameras across the state.
Adam Joseph, communications director for the Connecticut Senate Democrats, agreed that Looney’s proposal is an effective path for Connecticut to take in order to ultimately garner a better relationship between citizens and their police forces.
Looking to emulate cities such as San Diego and Dallas, which have successfully integrated body cameras into their police forces, some Connecticut cities have already attempted to establish similar programs. The Hartford Police Department initially introduced body cameras to their city in 2012, only to run into resistance from the Hartford Police Union, which wished to see further studies on the subject before allowing the program to be implemented, according to Deputy Police Chief Brian Foley.
Although the program does not currently run in the state capital, Foley said he is hopeful that the bill will pass the legislature and eventually become law.
“Of course we support it — statistically it’s a win,” Foley said. “If our community wants it, then that’s what we’ll support.”
The program, strongly supported by Hartford residents and the city council, would help bring body cameras back to Hartford.
East Haven has also recognized the implementation of body cameras as an effective tactic. In a December 2014 press release, the East Haven Police Department stated that body cameras support officer safety and provide video evidence that helps in the prosecution of both traffic violations and criminal offenses.
The body cameras can be worn either on glasses or as an attachment to the police officer’s uniform.