Regional police to begin using body-worn cameras
● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
Beginning in January, the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department (SCCRPD) will outfit its officers with body-worn cameras.
The department has purchased 12 cameras, which will be worn on an officer's left chest and affixed through the use of a magnetic clip. The officer will responsible for making sure that the camera is pointed in the right direction in order to capture all interactions with the general public.
Before it is officially launched, the final revision of the department's body-worn camera policy will be sent to the officers, courts and the Chester County District Attorney's Office for review, and all officers will soon undergo training and testing.
SCCRPD Lieutenant Joseph Greenwalt, who will oversee the implementation of the cameras for the department, said that this program will enhance the department's service to the community by accurately documenting actions, statements and interactions with the public, and better hold everyone accountable for their actions.
In addition, he said footage captured during interactions that result in an arrest will now be available for viewing during trials and court proceedings, which gives prosecutors and judges an accurate account of events as they occurred.
Proponents of body-worn cameras also believe that they will increase police accountability by changing behavior and providing conclusive evidence, and protect a police department or officer in the event that a frivolous lawsuit is filed.
Body-worn cameras will also allow an officer to later review the footage of a transaction in order to critique his or her “performance,” such as how he or she approached a vehicle, or the manner in which he or she conducted the conversation.
“Interactions with the public during routine stops happen so quickly, and being able to review the footage allows the officer to understand when in the rare circumstances someone does launch an attack, how they could prevent an act of this kind in the future,” said Greenwalt. “By being able to review this footage, it allows the officer to ask, 'What could I have done to prevent this from happening, and how can I be better prepared in the future?'”
By 2016, 47 percent of the 15,328 general-purpose state and local law enforcement agencies in the U.S. had acquired body-worn cameras. From 2014 to 2017, various municipal police departments in Pennsylvania began body-worn camera pilot programs, which led to the the passage of Act 22 that established procedures and guidelines for the use of body-worn cameras by law enforcement agencies in the Commonwealth.
The SCCRPD will soon join Pennsylvania police departments in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Allentown, Kennett Township and Kennett Borough, Penn Hills Township, Greencastle Borough, the City of Scranton and the York School District, who have already incorporated cameras into their practice.
“This places everyone in the seat of the police officer, and it protects everyone involved,” Greenwalt said. “While there is no doubt that our department's level of professionalism will remain the same, the only difference is that now these acts of professionalism will be recorded.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.