Depending on the success of a body camera program currently being piloted by the Philadelphia Police, Temple Police may consider adding cameras to their uniforms as well.
Members of the Philadelphia Police 22nd District have been wearing and testing body cameras for the past 14 months.
“We’re waiting for results for the cameras, to see what they’re like,” said Executive Director of Campus Safety Services Charlie Leone. “We want all the right information before we make a decision.”
Roger McFadden, an officer in the 22nd District, who has worked extensively in the pilot program, said the department has tested for picture and audio quality, battery life and durability in the cameras.
“This is a new field, so everyone has a new idea or a new method,” he said. Some cameras only had a two-hour battery life or stopped charging after being plugged in and unplugged so many times, he added.
Others stopped working when the temperature got too low and turned back on when they warmed up, McFadden said.
The pilot program will become a permanent addition to the 22nd District police force within the next 60 days, said Lt. Dennis Gallagher, the tactical administrator for the 22nd District.
“We’ve gotten a very positive reaction,” he said. “There’s more self-awareness in the interactions. People behave better because they’re on camera.”
Gallagher said footage from the cameras allows the district to look at arrests and see how they were conducted, and if there was a use of force, the video provides complete documentation.
“It gives us a much more accurate representation of the incident,” he said. “Earlier there was the perspective that was just a cellphone video that could have been cut or edited, and these show the perspective of the officer.”
Temple Police will have to figure out new policies and training before introducing body cameras to the department, Leone said. He added most people see the cameras as something helpful because it will show transparency and help build trust between police and the community.
According to a 2015 report from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, body cameras reduced use of force by police officers by 87.5 percent and reduced complaints by 59 percent.
Leone said there “is no reason [Temple Police] wouldn’t start using cameras.” There would, however, have to be data collection and focus groups to see how the cameras did and did not help with police work, he said.
The cost of the cameras and the infrastructure to collect and hold the data would also have to be considered, Leone added.
“The expensive part is the hardware for the data storage,” Gallagher said. “If you’re a smaller department it might be easier, but for a department of 5,000, it’s a much bigger project.”
Gallagher said both body and security or city cameras are “assets” to reducing and solving crime, “especially when it comes to identification.”
“Cameras are the best witnesses in the world,” he said. “Sometimes witnesses don’t show up to court because they’re scared or other reasons, but the video is always going to be there, and it’s going to be the same every time.”
Julie Christie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ChristieJules