Town of New Paltz police officers have been testing body cameras, and are expected to start using them during the fourth quarter of the year, said Lieutenant Robert Lucchesi at the May 16 meeting of the town’s police commission, where he also warned about new recurring costs which will need to be budgeted in order to keep the equipment updated.
The brand preferred, Watchguard, captures both audio and video and can be integrated seamlessly with the existing car cameras, which are from the same company. Outfitting all officers will run $28,000, but as they have enough server capacity to hold two years’ worth of video in house, there would not be ongoing hosting fees. The shelf life of these cameras is three to five years, and Lucchesi said that he and Chief Joseph Snyder are recommending budgeting $2,500 a year to be set aside for purchasing replacements.
The two top cops are presently working on a policy to guide use of the technology, drawing upon several model laws and those already on the books. Supervisor Neil Bettez made it clear he’d like input into that policy, as he’s been studying up. One aspect he mentioned specifically would be to prevent officers from reviewing the footage prior to writing reports; the lieutenant seemed open to the idea, simply saying that one theory of use allows for reports to be amended, at least, based on such review. He encouraged developing a policy in concert with officers which is deemed “practical.”
During the incident last September when Paul Echols was detained, the fact that town police do not have body cameras resulted in there being little video footage of when Echols was in the back seat of a police cruiser with officer Robert Knoth, a period of time which was crucial both in Echols’ trial for resisting arrest and other charges, and also for Echols’ complaint that Knoth used excessive force. While the case may have heightened public interest, body cameras were being considered regardless as an emerging trend in policing.
However the policy language is hashed out, Lucchesi expects it may take a few months for officers to get in the habit of turning them on consistently, and he’d prefer not to immediately impose any consequences in that regard. Lucchesi anticipates that a approval might be sought in July or August, with implementation to take place in the last three months of 2019.