Niskayuna moving forward with police body cameras

FILE - A prototype body camera in Schenectady in 2018
FILE - A prototype body camera in Schenectady in 2018

NISKAYUNA The Niskayuna Police Department is moving forward with plans to equip officers with body-worn cameras after the Town Board recently authorized $85,000 in spending to purchase the equipment.   

Lawmakers, during a special meeting Tuesday, voted unanimously to purchase 17 Motorola body-worn cameras and six patrol car cameras, capping off months of discussion surrounding what equipment would best suit the department’s needs and how the cameras would be paid for.  

Police Chief Jordan Kochan said Thursday that his entire department welcomes the cameras, noting the benefits of increasing transparency and building public trust associated with the equipment. 

But, he added, it could take between six and nine months for the cameras to arrive due to ongoing supply chain issues, and it’s unclear when exactly the cameras will be deployed.  

“Our officers welcome the opportunity to be transparent. They welcome the opportunity to have things recorded and show positive interactions and that we’re doing the right thing here,” Kochan said. “We think it’s going to protect our community members, the folks we interact with, and our officers.”

Plans to equip officers with body-worn cameras have been in the works since the town approved its Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative plan last year, which called for adopting a number of initiatives centered around increasing public trust and transparency, including body-worn cameras.  

The reform plan was drafted beginning in 2020 following an executive order from then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo requiring all municipalities to adopt police reform plans in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in Minnesota. 

Last year, the town received a $33,420 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to help cover the costs of the equipment. The town covered the remaining balance, but Kochan noted work to secure additional grant funding to further offset the cost remains ongoing. 

Still, he said the cameras are responsibly priced compared to other cameras on the market, and include a number of features that will benefit the department, including on-premise storage for recordings and a kiosk system that will allow officers to sign out a camera in real time. 

The cameras also correspond with radios the department already in use by the department, and turn on automatically when the emergency alert button on the radio is triggered. 

The department is made up of 28 officers, and cameras would be assigned to all patrol officers, as well as detectives when interacting with the community. Officers would also be assigned a camera when covering large community events like Niska Day, Kochan said.  

“Overall, we felt that Motorola offered the best product for what we needed,” he said. 

Jessica Brennan, the town’s deputy supervisor who sits on the Police and Public Safety Committee, said the cameras also include redaction software, which would allow video evidence to be released publicly. 

“This technology, at least to me, speaks to the heart of public safety,” she said. 

A department policy regarding the use of the cameras is currently under review, but Kochan said he is hoping the policy, which the public will have an opportunity to review, will be finalized in the coming months.

As far as the rest of the department’s reform plan, Kochan said the department has already implemented a number of recommendations, including additional training for officers, and the town’s public safety committee is working to develop a list a proposals to present to the Town Board this fall.

Brennan, meanwhile, said she is happy with the progress the department has made, but noted work remains ongoing and a number of issues must still be addressed, including budgetary concerns, before the plan is fully implemented.

“It’s really just been a collaborative project with people with all different experiences, professionally and personally, sitting down and being able to communicated what they need and what they would like to see, and understanding what might need budgetary approval,” Brennan said. 

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.  

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Categories: -News-, Schenectady County, Your Niskayuna

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