SCHENECTADY -- The Schenectady Police Department has officially selected the body cameras that officers will wear, beginning next year.
The department has chosen the Panasonic Arbitrator MK3 cameras, according to Lt. Michael McLaughlin. The selection comes after the department conducted research on various models, and 18 officers were deployed with cameras as part of that process, police have said.
Since they already have experience with the Panasonic cameras, the police who tested them out will help train other officers. The department plans to stagger the deployment of cameras, starting next month.
The hope is to have the cameras deployed among the department's 110 patrol officers by the end of April, McLaughlin said. Assistant Police Chief Michael Seber previously said detectives will not be wearing the cameras at first, but that is something the department could explore in the future.
McLaughlin said the draft policy for the use of the body cameras is “99 percent” complete. But the department plans to show the draft policy to a committee of community stakeholders before making it public.
That committee includes the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office, the county Public Defender’s Office, the county Human Rights Commission and The Daily Gazette.
The total cost of the body-worn camera project was $165,000, McLaughlin said. That figure also includes some new in-car video support equipment from Panasonic, which McLaughlin said was expected to be installed in the near future.
McLaughlin said the department paid $710 per camera.
City Council members approved a resolution in November 2017 to accept a $165,000 grant to cover the cost of the cameras, along with the support equipment.
Seber previously said the department spent the last year researching four different models. They eventually were able to narrow them down to two.
McLaughlin said the Panasonic model, along with being able to replace some of the department’s aging in-car video equipment, was the best and most competitive option.
There were a few other aspects that made the cameras appealing, McLaughlin said. One was battery life -- the Panasonic models lasted longer than the others that were tested. The cameras' software also allows officers to easily share videos -- whether with the public or the Schenectady County District Attorney’s office.
One of the big factors, McLaughlin said, was the software will help reduce the amount of time officers spend attaching information to videos, such as incident numbers and crime classifications.
He said the department will be able to save money by purchasing the Panasonic computer server, because it can store any type of video, meaning the city will not have to purchase another server.
Schenectady police officers already have in-car video systems. The new body cameras are self-contained, meaning the recording would be done on the device and not transmitting through the car. That means foot chases will be fully captured by equipped officers, rather than just what is seen and heard by the in-car cameras.
McLaughlin said the body cameras the department chose, as well as the in-car video equipment, were not the most inexpensive options, but they were not the most costly, either.
“[The price] was better than many,” McLaughlin said. “But we weren’t just shopping by price. We wanted to make sure it fit what we were asking for.”