HAUPPAUGE, NY – The first phase of body-worn cameras for Suffolk police officers was announced Thursday by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison.
The county’s police reform plan proposed that body-worn cameras be used as standard police equipment for all officers who interact with the public while on the job in an effort for transparency and accountability, Bellone said. He said body cameras are one of the county’s biggest plan reforms.
“It’s undeniable that cameras change while providing video and audio that allows an event to be independently verified,” Bellone said. “Our body-worn camera program will ensure that our officers are held to the highest standards, highlighting the good police work we know our officers do on a daily basis and ensuring that everyone is treated fairly and equally. In short, This body-worn camera program will protect our officers, ensure accountability and build public confidence.It’s a win-win-win scenario.
Bellona included $24 million over five years in the county’s capital budget for the purchase of the cameras, program implementation, and maintenance of body-worn cameras and data systems. The Suffolk County Legislature is due to vote Tuesday on allocating the first $8 million to the program.
The county has entered into a five-year, $22.4 million deal with Axon Enterprise for body cameras, according to Bellone. The purchase covers cameras, program implementation, and camera and data maintenance.
“There is no doubt that the use of body cameras will increase the transparency and accountability of police departments,” Bellone said. “Police is a sacred duty. The deployment of these cameras, in conjunction with all other reforms, will help to deepen the trust in our communities that we know is so essential to policing. efficient.”
Starting in July, about 130 Seventh Ward officers will be equipped with body-worn cameras. Harrison said the East End is a good place to pilot the program because it has the fewest police and vehicles, as well as its proximity to department headquarters.
The second rollout of the body camera program is scheduled for late summer, when approximately 1,600 county officers will be outfitted with cameras. There are about 2,500 officers in the department, according to Harrison.
Harrison said he was “excited” about the body-worn camera rollout.
“It’s going to help record and document to help strengthen the prosecution,” Harrison said. “He’s going to be able to tell the true story of an incident between the men and women of the Suffolk County Police Department and the community we’re here to protect and serve.”
Police camera footage can be used to review critical incidents and for training purposes, the commissioner said.
“It’s important,” Harrison said. “This will encourage respectful interactions between police and the public. Last but not least, and I think I take the opportunity to talk about it every time I’m on a podium: officer safety. Body-worn cameras are going to definitely help officer safety in the future.”
Officers must complete a four-hour training on policy and procedure instructions, as well as information on equipment and materials. Investigators and supervisors will also receive two hours of training from Axon.
The recent graduating class from the Suffolk County Police Department received body-worn camera training at the academy, which is now a standard in the curriculum.
Bellone believes the police-worn body cameras will create a lasting legacy in Suffolk County and serve as a model for other counties in New York State and beyond.
“This is a defining time for the future of policing, not just here, but across the country,” Bellone said. “I am grateful to everyone who came to the table and to everyone who participated in the reform process, as they were tackling an incredibly difficult challenge.”