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Body cameras for Schenectady officers remain a work in progress

Body cameras for Schenectady officers remain a work in progress

'The idea, I believe, is to make sure our policies are similar to other police department practices'
Body cameras for Schenectady officers remain a work in progress
Schenectady Police Chief Clifford suggests that body cameras for patrol officers should be implemented by next winter.

SCHENECTADY -- The first body cameras for city officers are now expected to hit the streets by June, city Police Chief Eric Clifford said.

The department had hoped to have the tests underway by February or March, but requirements of the $165,000 federal grant funding the project have pushed that time frame back, Clifford said Friday. 

One of the requirements is that two members of the department attend a conference in Washington concerning camera policies and practices. The grant is funding the trip, Clifford said, but the conference isn't scheduled until next month.

The department is also beginning work crafting its policies and starting the process of selecting a vendor, Clifford said.

"The idea, I believe, is to make sure our policies are similar to other police department practices," Clifford said.

The grant calls for a stakeholder committee made up of department members, attorneys and community members to give input and approve policies and equipment.

The first meeting of that committee is set for Friday, March 16, Clifford said.

The department will post the policy online once it is adopted, he said.

Video would better confirm what happened in incidents in which the department receives complaints on officer actions, officials have said. The officer could be easily exonerated or the department could more easily determine something was wrong.

The department has had dash cameras and on-officer microphones, as well as cameras at the police station. Officers are required to turn on their microphones when they interact with the public. 

Those often capture crucial information in cases, but body cameras could gather more.

City officer microphones captured audio of most or all of the May 2017 incident in Schenectady involving the in-custody death of Andrew Kearse, while cameras in the patrol car and at the station captured Kearse being transported and events after the patrol car’s arrival at the station, officials have said.

Kearse's widow Angelique Negroni-Kearse obtained audio recorded during the incident and released a portion last month. The state Attorney General's Office continues to investigate.

The $165,000 grant, along with a local match, is expected to cover cameras and equipment for each of the 110 patrol officers on the force, officials have said. The City Council approved the grant in November.

The grant, from federal Bureau of Justice Assistance, requires a local match. That can be made through services and salaries, officials have said.

The department is expected to start with 8 or 10 officers testing brands and then expand from there. Clifford couldn't give a firm timetable for complete implementation, but suggested maybe by sometime next winter.

"It all depends on how long we want to test each one and how many we test," Clifford said.

The stakeholder committee is to include a list of members, from the police department, district attorney and public defender to officials from the civilian police review board and county human rights commission.

Others taking part are the PBA president, a school principal and Daily Gazette publisher John DeAugustine. DeAugustine said Mayor Gary McCarthy contacted him and invited him to be a part of the committee.

"I think that they're a critical part of policing now and I'm pleased to be a part of it because we're always focused on a safer community, so if I can help in any way, I'll do it," DeAugustine said Friday.

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