Berlin Police to Stop Using Body Cameras

Berlin Police have been using six body cameras on a voluntary basis for the past few years. They’re one of a small handful of police departments in Connecticut using the cameras.

In the coming weeks and months, the practice will stop altogether says Berlin’s Police Chief Paul Fitzgerald.

"The onerous part is really the storage and when I have to use it” said Fitzgerald during an interview Monday.

Fitzgerald is wary of new guidelines for the use of body cameras by POST, the Police Officers and Standards Training Council. The new guidelines recommended maintaining a body camera recording for at least 90 days in most cases and 10 years in some cases.

In a small police department like Berlin’s, the chief says hiring multiple people to maintain the videos and the data attached to them could turn out to be too much.

"Who's going to watch all of that video so I can decide what should be released and what shouldn't be released? It really becomes a management nightmare."

The Connecticut General Assembly approved a bill that the governor signed into law that provided new regulations for the use of body cameras, and new guidelines for police on how to handle use of force investigations. Independent investigators will not be utilized.

In addition, the law included language that requires all Connecticut State Police to wear body cameras in addition to all state college police.

The law also contained $50 million for municipal police departments to apply for to pay for cameras and their storage for up to one year.

David McGuire with the Connecticut ACLU says he fears the move made by the Berlin Police could provide poor optics for the department.

"I think it sends a very very bad signal to residents in that area and other chiefs across the state that it's OK to push back and not go along with these cameras,” McGuire said.

McGuire pointed out that at one point police dashboard cameras were resisted by police across the country and said, “Now they’re standard fare.”

Fitzgerald sasys the requirements of storage are too much for his department and insists that dash cams are enough for the way they police.

I think 90% of the time it does and in a town like Berlin that's pretty much predominantly what we do and we do provide that coverage but sure we're going to miss some things."

McGuire says in due time, police will see the benefits of extra video and evidence for the sake of officers.

"The point that I can't make strongly enough is that this is a golden opportunity for police to regain the public's trust.

"If they were to get this footage and just randomly audit just ten pieces of footage every week, I guarantee you that the vast majority will show officers doing their job appropriately and effectively and that's a way that the public can begin to trust police again."

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