New Police Cameras Raise Concerns

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The next time you get pulled over by a police officer, you may notice a tiny camera watching your every move. (Published Tuesday, May 21, 2013)

    The next time you get pulled over by a police officer, you may notice a tiny camera watching your every move.

    "I haven't have anyone specifically give me a really hard time about it or question it. I think a majority of people like it because they realize everything we're doing is being scrutinized," said Officer David Pecoraro with the Milford Police Department.

    Officers in several Connecticut towns are using the small cameras to film traffic stops and crime calls. The cameras are about the size of a pen and can be mounted on a collar or the side of a pair of sunglasses. The cameras are constantly buffering which means they record the most recent 30 seconds of video prior to the record button being pressed.

    The Milford police department recently purchased a dozen of the cameras using asset forfeiture money seized from drug busts.

    "Most people ask me if that's a camera on my sunglasses. I tell them yes we are recording. It's our department policy. Most people are receptive to it," said Pecoraro.

    Hartford police are also using the cameras, although the program hasn't officially launched yet. Officers hope the cameras will improve their relationship with residents in the capitol city.

    "When you improve the professional standards of a police department and you're recording everything, it only goes to garner trust between the police department and the community," said Lt. Brian Foley of the Hartford police department.

    Those in favor of the cameras say they will protect the public from police misconduct, yet at the same time can also protect the police from false allegations or complaints.

    One study at a police department in California showed an 88% drop in the number of complaints filed against officers, compared to the year before the cameras were in use. Officers say the cameras can also record valuable evidence at the scene that could be used in court.

    "Obviously video evidence is very compelling and the courts like to have video evidence," said Foley.

    But many questions still remain. Many departments, including Hartford and Milford are still trying to hammer out policies detailing the camera's use and determine how long to store videos. Currently, officers download all the video to a cloud database run by the manufacturer of the cameras, Taser International.

    The American Civil Liberties Union says it's in favor of the cameras, but says the amount of time a department holds on to the video should be closely monitored. The ACLU suggest policies that specify videos be deleted after a certain period of time.

    "There's no reason to keep video of innocent people at a traffic stop for example," said David McGuire, chief counsel for the ACLU of Connecticut.

    While just a few departments in the state are using the cameras, several departments including Hamden have ordered them and departments like New Haven may soon purchase them.