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EDITORIAL: Equip State Police with cameras

EDITORIAL: Equip State Police with cameras

Body cams and dash cams are an invaluable tool, but NY State Police are among five state police forces that don't have them

Body cameras worn by police officers, and dashboard cameras in police cars, have captured drunken drivers weaving all over the road, criminal suspects running from a crime scene, suspects resisting arrest, and officers properly and heroically carrying out their duties, sometimes in the wake of false accusations of brutality.

These cameras also have captured police abusing the rights of citizens through use of excessive force and engaging in other irresponsible, dangerous and unlawful behavior. 

In places where body- and dash cams have been put into use, the number of incidents of police brutality and the number of civilian complaints have dropped significantly.

Cameras help ensure better behavior by citizens and police because they provide proof of conduct. No more relying on one person’s word over another when accusations arise. As a result of their effectiveness in reducing police misconduct and revealing the truth about criminal activity by citizens, these cameras help build trust between the public and police that’s necessary for effective law enforcement.

Because of the benefits these two types of cameras have to police, citizens and the practice of law overall, many county, city and local police agencies have already purchased the necessary equipment and have put it into practice.

One agency that hasn’t, however, is the New York State Police.

Only five state police agencies in the country currently operate without dash cams or body cams. New York’s 5,100-member statewide force is by far the largest among them.

Given the value these cameras provide, it’s unconscionable that New York State Police don’t have them yet.

It’s time to bring them into the 21st century.

One pending piece of legislation (A8674/S6686) would require that all state troopers use body-worn cameras on patrol and keep video records of all interactions involving individuals stopped on suspicion of a crime or a traffic violation. The bill’s authors say it’s is designed to promote accountability and trust.

Another bill (A8497) would require that each State Police vehicle used in connection with roadway patrols, prevention and investigation of crimes, or response to emergencies and disasters be equipped with a dashboard camera.

Other proposed legislation would establish rules as to when State Police must turn on their body cameras and when troopers can elect to turn them off, such as when interviewing sexual assault victims and confidential informants.

Citizens and police have come to rely on and benefit from greater transparency in their interactions.

Body cameras and dash cameras add a unique level of transparency, and as a result another level of responsibility and trust.

It’s well past time New York State Police got them.

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