Thirty New Haven police officers began body camera training on Nov. 1, the New Haven Police Department announced at a joint press conference with Mayor Toni Harp on Wednesday.
After roughly three months of training, the officers will wear cameras throughout their shifts — but turn them on only during specific daily operations. The cameras will capture video and audio evidence during high-profile crimes in the city, NHPD Police Chief Anthony Campbell ’95 DIV ’09 said at the press conference.
“Most importantly, the body cameras are a vision for a more collaborative and interactive community model of community policing,” Campbell said. “This vision is Mayor Harp’s vision to bring up our department to the 21st century.”
This week, in-field training will begin, and the NHPD will launch the use of body cameras to provide all the advantages they bring to public safety, Harp said. Some of the benefits of the use of body cameras include more precise evidence collection, more accurate documentation and improved communication between the police and the public, she added.
Assistant Chief Racheal Cain and Sergeant Rose Dell spearheaded the departments’ efforts to phase in the program. Cain and Dell researched different cameras available to the force, developed two pilot programs for the body cameras, wrote the guidelines for camera usage and are overseeing the training of officers, Campbell said.
After the system is completely phased in, every sworn member of the NHPD will be issued a body camera, he added.
The state provided the NHPD with $770,000 to reimburse costs that occur in the first year of operations and will allocate $350,000 per year to fund unlimited storage of recorded footage, Cain said.
Officers who complete months of training will learn know specific instances in which the camera should be turned off and on, Dell said. Rules crafted by Cain and Dell specify that the camera should be used solely when officers are carrying out official duties, since having the camera on at all times generates too much data, making storage difficult. However, there are instances during official duties when the camera should not be on, like when an officer deals with juveniles or sexual assault victims, Campbell said.
After officers finish their shifts, they return to a docking station at either department headquarters or a satellite station. When they dock the camera, the footage will be uploaded to a secure cloud. Officers will be able to view footage of their cameras from issued cell phone, Cain said.
Media will gain access to body camera footage by submitting a Freedom of Information Act request. But during high-profile situations, he said, the department may release videos independently.
Harp decided to host a pilot body camera program several years ago to get a better sense of what really transpired in what appeared to be an “increasing number of controversial police actions across the nation.”
“It was challenging,” said officer Reginald McGlotten, who was trained in the initial pilot program. “It was weird at first to remember to turn [the camera] on every time you get a call. Over three months, though, we have adjusted.”
Before the program, Campbell said, some police officers bought and used their own cameras to accurately track their outings.
“Both the community and the members of the police department will have greater safety, accountability and transparency as a result of the policy,” Campbell said.
According to Campbell, the NHPD will wait two to three weeks before the next round of training for officers. This will allow the department to reveal the “kinks in the system” before streamlining the process.
Jever Mariwala | firstname.lastname@example.org