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Schenectady body camera tests could begin by June

Schenectady body camera tests could begin by June

The department hopes to have all officers wearing body cameras by the end of the year
Schenectady body camera tests could begin by June
Schenectady Assistant Police Chief Michael Seber recently attended a conference in washington on body cameras.
Photographer: Eric Jenks/For The Daily Gazette

SCHENECTADY -- Body camera vendors are expected to begin vying for testing slots in the city's police body camera program by the end of this week, officials said.

The city police department is moving ahead with plans to outfit all officers with body cameras by the end of the year, and officials are in the process of setting policy and ensuring the purchase of the right cameras for the city's needs.

Officers are expected to start testing four or five models by June, according to Assistant Police Chief Michael Seber.

In the meantime, the department is continuing to meet with a committee of community stakeholders about policy and camera topics, Seber said.

The department had hoped to have the tests underway by February or March, but requirements of the $165,000 federal grant secured to pay for the project pushed the tests back, officials have said.

Seber and Lt. James Sanders attended a Justice Department conference about the cameras recently in Washington, a trip that was itself funded by the grant.

Speakers there touched on the entire process -- from policy to testing to deployment, Seber said. 

"It was one of the better conferences I ever attended, actually," Seber said. "It was well-run -- had great information."

Seber and Sanders spoke with representatives of other departments around the country who are further along in the process and provided good insight, Seber said.

Testing is expected to continue for two months or so, Seber said. He hopes to have a camera system selected by September and begin rolling out the cameras by October or November. He hopes to have all officers wearing body cameras by the end of the year.

Still to be finalized is the policy for use of the cameras, including when they must be activated and when officers can turn them off, Seber said.

He expects a policy crafted with the help of the committee to be in place by the time testing starts, with a final policy in place by the time the cameras are rolled out to all officers, Seber said.

"You have to give all that guidance to the officers, so it's pretty black and white operationally when you're going to use it," Seber said.

Once the first tests are underway, the footage will be available for prosecutions. The policy will also cover how the footage is released to prosecutors, defense attorneys and even the media.

Systems have different ways to redact information, such as when officers enter people's homes.

"There's a lot of rules governing it," Seber said, "and there's a lot of different options on equipment."

The stakeholder committee will be included on the policy issue of when and how the footage will be released, officials said. The department is also monitoring a New York City Police union lawsuit in which the union argues body camera footage should be shielded from release to the public.

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