Justice for All: Police departments embrace body cam advantages
Connecticut police departments have a July 1, 2022 deadline to be outfitted with body cameras and dash cams. But for many in the state, cameras are already a way of life. The Stamford Police Department implemented its program more than three years ago.
Lt. Tom Scanlon was part of the team that got it up and running.
Expanded Coverage: Justice for All
"I think initially this was a technology that most law enforcement agencies weren't asking for,” Scanlon says. “It was kind of pushed onto them. But I think as time has run its course, I think most agencies would look back and then realize overall that this technology has been very positive for law enforcement."
Cameras have been touted as a way to provide a clearer picture of police interactions -- exposing potential problems, especially with use of force incidents.
Rep. Steve Stafstrom is one local legislator leading the push.
"They're necessary to provide a level of public transparency, an accountability to up the level of policing in Connecticut," says Stafstrom.
In Torrington, body camera footage led an officer to be fired for excessive force in May.
But cameras can also be a way to protect police. Last month a one-minute cell phone video of an arrest in Bridgeport went viral with some alleging an officer was choking the suspect. The city responded by releasing video from body cameras and dash cams showing the entire incident - and a different side to the situation.
"It's allowed officers to get cleared of wrongdoing much quicker than would have been the case in the past," Scanlon tells News 12.
"A lot of research coming out is complaints against cops drop when you have body cameras," says Lt. Robert Kozlowsky of the Shelton Police Department.
Shelton police are currently in the process of testing body cameras so the department will be ready to go before next summer's deadline.
"There's always that initial fear from the officers of something new and new technology," Kozlowsky explains. "But during the trial program, the officers that are using this are seeing what a great benefit it is to them."
"In my conversations and work on this over the year, I've yet to have a police officer tell me they don't like having the body cameras," adds Stafstrom.
Scanlon says cameras have also been a tool to solve cases in Stamford. He tells News 12 that investigators review footage and may pick up on something they didn't notice at a crime scene.
"It's really been a significant advantage for us. A lot of the evidence now is on camera, and it's able to be presented to a jury," he says.
Police admit there is a downside to the technology - the cost, specifically for video storage. Kozlowsky says issues with that caused Shelton to hold off on body cameras in the past.
"It was the unknown expense and there was still the debate, which is something we're looking into now, is, ‘Do we want to host our own server or do you go cloud storage?’"
Shelton is applying for state funds available through last year's police accountability bill. The money will cover a portion of the expense.
"There is a cost involved with body cameras, but I think that cost is significantly outweighed by public disclosure and protection and accountability that body cameras provide," says Stafstrom.
Part one of our report on cameras looked at the legislation mandating them and which departments in southwestern Connecticut already have them.
Text and reporting by Marissa Alter