Public Safety committee approves purchase of technology for police accountability
NHPD’s proposal for authorization to buy dashboard and body cameras pushes forward in the Board of Alders.
Yale Daily News
On Tuesday, the Board of Alders Public Safety Committee unanimously approved an NHPD proposal to purchase new equipment including body cameras, dashboard cameras and tasers.
According to NHPD Acting Chief Renee Dominguez, the proposed purchases for body cameras and dashboard cameras are necessary to comply with the state’s Police Accountability Act, or PAA, which was enacted last year following national protests against police brutality in the summer of 2020. In New Haven, multiple use-of-force incidents this year have prompted NHPD investigations with evidence taken from body camera footage. The PAA mandated the purchase of dashboard cameras for police vehicles by Dec. 31 of this year and expects that all officers are equipped with body cameras by July 2022.
Though the NHPD has had training programs and policies for body-worn cameras since 2017, the NHPD needs to purchase 147 new dashboard cameras in line with the act. The department recently brokered a five-year, 5.7 million dollar contract with Axon Enterprises to update the equipment.
“Having already done the policies for body-worn cameras and gone through the implementation for that, the dashboard camera rollout will be a lot smoother,” Rebecca Bombero, NHPD deputy chief administrative officer, said during the meeting. “[It] will be on the ground a lot quicker than body-worn cameras because we already have that experience.”
The NHPD proposed the purchase of 825 new body-worn cameras, 350 new tasers, five upgraded interview rooms and additional supporting technological infrastructure. The new technologies will help the NHPD regulate and better monitor the usage of cameras among police officers.
For instance, the dashboard cameras will now be equipped with sensors that turn that camera on when an officer pulls out a taser, Dominguez said. Ward 5 Alder Kampton Singh noted that these automated features will help police officers who might forget to turn on their cameras, especially in life-threatening situations.
The list of proposed purchases also includes technologies that will improve the supervision of police activities such as a system that alerts supervisors when an officer’s body-worn camera is switched on.
Additional taser cartridges to be used for officer training were also part of the proposal.
“We have seen in the country, over the past year, how important training [for taser use] is,” Dominguez said. “So we have added more cartridges to be able to train more with the live fires of the tasers. … That is super important because we want our officers to have more repetitions and [to] utilize the tasers in training situations, so that what we’re doing in training is also what we’re going to be doing in real-life situations.”
Officers will go through training on procedures and policy for the use of dashboard cameras, led by a sergeant who has had experience supervising the use of body-worn cameras, according to Dominguez. She added that detailed policies on the use of the dashboard cameras will be included in an upcoming general order — an authoritative directive used by NHPD that outlines policies, which is currently being written.
During the meeting, Dominguez said that footage captured by cameras is stored in a cloud-based data archiving system, managed by the Axon-administered internet platform “evidence.com.”
Ward 7 Alder Abigail Roth voiced concerns about the privacy of gathered information, to which Dominguez said that Axon Enterprises will not be able to access any footage from the cameras.
“The evidence [our systems collect] is our evidence; Axon can’t see our evidence,” Dominguez said. She added that depending on the type of footage, collected data has its own designated lifespan, after which it will be deleted.
The Board of Alders will deliberate the resolution on Thursday. If the resolution passes, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker will have official authorization to push through with the purchases in the proposal.
The Connecticut Police Accountability Act was enacted in July 2020.