In a move that West Hartford says is about accountability and transparency, all public-facing police officers began wearing body cameras on Monday.
The cameras are about the size of a cell phone and weigh only a couple of pounds. They attached to the abdomen area to record all investigative actions by officers. They are electronic devices, West Hartford police say, that will act as impartial witnesses.
“There’s no denying what is on this camera. People have biases but the cameras don’t,” said Sgt. Amanda Martin.
After years of research and extensive testing, West Hartford police have made these body cameras mandatory equipment. The view from the camera’s wide-angle lens provides a 146-degree view. Recordings will be stored on a private police website.
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Residents of West Hartford who spoke with NBC Connecticut are in support, explaining it gives them confidence.
“It’s sort of an assurance that people are held accountable for their actions,” said Claire Serpi.
In total, the town purchased 140 cameras. The cost was about $1.2 million. Payment will be made with a combination of grant and town money that will be paid over the course of five years.
It’s an investment town resident, Elizbeth Lewis says is worth it.
“There’s fewer questions,” said Lewis. “You can see what’s happening from both sides of the story if there is an issue.”
Currently, the body cams need to be physically turned on by each officer before every interaction but there is a plan to automated these within a few months.
“As soon as you turn your lights on it’s going to send out a signal about 30 to 50 feet and for 30 seconds it’s going to activate any body camera in the area,” said Martin.
According to West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor, these cameras were first discussed three years ago but at the time were cost-prohibitive. She explains, this system meets the town’s needs and is an investment providing accountability.
“One of the most important services that we provide to our constituents is public safety and to make sure that everyone has the confidence in our police department,” said Cantor.