Joining their counterparts at the East Haven and Hamden precincts, officers in the New Haven Police Department could be patrolling the city with body cameras next year.
New Haven is currently applying for a state grant that would provide $500.000 in funds for body cams on all members of the police force, which numbers over 450. This development comes after a 90-day pilot program last fall, during which 27 police officers equipped themselves with body cams for a 90-day pilot program. If the grant goes through, the NHPD could have the cameras by spring of 2017, said Chief Anthony Campbell in a recent statement.
Still, NHPD Media Liaison David Hartman said, these plans are in their infancy, and the department has established no formal protocol regarding the camera’s usage.
“There are [no body cameras yet] purchased nor has there been a policy implemented on their use,” Hartman said.
The move by the New Haven department runs parallel to a recent nation and statewide effort to introduce police cameras. Last May, President Barack Obama and the United States Department of Justice launched the Body-Worn Camera Pilot Implementation Program, which allocated New Haven $90,000 of a $20 million national grant to implement such technology.
Nearby, the East Haven Police Department first began using body cams two years ago, and now uses 53. According to Lt. Joseph Murgo, the EHPD’s public information officer, officers are recommended to use them on routine calls and investigations. And during motor vehicle stops and calls leading to a possibility of arrest, officers must switch their cameras on.
“The overall sentiment is that the body cameras are a god send and we can’t believe we didn’t adopt the technology sooner,” Murgo said. “It has helped us in our investigations, and it has helped mitigate complaints. It also ensures both officer and civilians’ behavior is documented in an unbiased way.”
Footage from the cameras, which can be accessed with a Freedom of Information request, has been used in court disputes by both police and civilians. The footage also assists officers in providing an accurate police report and helps supervisors monitor the force’s behavior.
Still, members of the department were hesitant when first adopting body cameras, though officials as a whole now embrace them. Several local police departments have also already put body cameras in place or are in the process of acquiring them, such as in New Haven.
“Body cameras will be the norm in every police department in the next five to 10 years and soon we won’t know life without them,” Murgo said. “Once officers realize there are way more pros than cons, they will accept them.”
But according to a statement in August by the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management, only 12 of the over 100 law enforcement agencies in the state have applied for a state grant to pay for body cameras, suggesting that many departments are not yet ready for the change.
Nationwide, nearly 95 percent of major police departments plan to implement body cams in the near future, according to a survey conducted January by the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association and Major County Sheriffs’ Association.
The Hamden and East Haven police departments use the Taser brand of body cameras.