(WTNH) — Last year Governor Dannel Malloy approved $15 million in state funding to assist police departments in the purchase and use of body cameras.
The program, being distributed by the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management, allows for each department interested to receive one year of video storage costs plus 100 percent reimbursement for the purchase of cameras this year, and 50 percent reimbursement if purchased next year. So far, only ten towns and cities have expressed interest.
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“OPM remains committed to supporting this new technology among local police departments. But we understand that there are a number of concerns that local agencies need to resolve beyond the money to pay for cameras. We will continue to assist in resolving any issues so that the available funds can be used in the manner identified by the legislature when it created this program,” said Ben Barnes, Secretary with the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management.
The big concerns departments have are with continued storage costs. Hamden Police Chief Thomas Wydra says while he respects his fellow officers and Chiefs, the argument against them is not justified.
“At this point in time it should be standard equipment for police officers all across this country. I’m a huge fan and advocate for the program,” said Wydra.
Hamden has been using body cameras since 2013. Chief Wydra says all officers are required to have one on when they begin their shift.
“I’ve seen all of the benefits not only in visual evidence but in mitigating false complaints and finding some moments when officers didn’t do everything they were supposed to do,” said Wydra.
Wydra believes the cameras offer a sense of security for both officers and the public. When the state funding was announced it was with the intention the cameras will increase communities’ trust in law enforcement and improve police accountability.
Scot X. Eisdale is the President of the Connecticut NAACP. He says given the tensions between police and the public following several high profile cases of alleged police brutality, police should be looking at cameras as a way to bridge the gap with the community.
“We find out that police departments are not participating and the amount of of lack of trust for police departments right now, this is just throwing more gasoline on the fire. It’s very disheartening and I’m very disappointed with the police departments across Connecticut,” said Eisdale.
State police and public university law enforcement agencies are now required to use body cameras. The OPM has received applications for funding from six departments and general inquiries from another 4. They say they will continue to reach out to other departments in hopes of bringing more on board.
Chief Wydra says the costs associated with the cameras are nothing compared to peace of mind that they provide.
“If you’ve had to deal with one frivolous lawsuit or one case of excessive use of force was claimed and you are not able to defend yourself with this type of technology, you’re paying out in settlement costs anyway,” said Wydra.