The Rochester Police Department and Monroe County Sheriff’s Office body-worn camera programs are getting a boost from the New York state Office of the Attorney General.
RPD received $104,450 and the Sheriff’s Office received $59,694 to reimburse the departments for buying cameras and docking stations.
“The body-worn camera program allows us to protect officers from erroneous allegations and allows law enforcement to be held accountable while providing quality service to our citzens,” RPD Chief La’Ron Singletary said during a Nov. 1 news conference with Attorney General Letitia James.
The funding comes from money recovered by the Office of the Attorney General in takedowns of organized crime.
The money will go to expenses related to buying and using the devices. The funds do not cover costs associated with training or responding to Freedom of Information Law requests to release the footage to the public. James said there is the potential to help with those costs as more money is recovered from crime operations.
“I believe we can use these funds to invest in our communities to benefit everyone,” James said. “The importance of body-worn cameras cannot be overstated. They are critical tools for providing transparency, accountability and promoting public safety … the safety of both the civilians and the officers who dedicate their lives to protect us each and every day.”
RPD has fully deployed body-worn cameras to all patrol officers. Singletary said the money will allow officers in other departments, such as the Community Affairs Bureau, to have cameras.
The Sheriff’s Office will be getting approximately 60 more body-worn cameras. Currently, it has 27 cameras.
In addition to recording actions of the public and officers when confrontations arise, camera footage also is used in training.
Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter said reviewing body camera video isn’t that much different from what coaches do when they look at instant replay or game films to see what went right and what needs to be improved. “We’re not getting seven angles with slow motion, but it gives us another way (to see) what police officers and deputies are doing.”
The current use of body-worn cameras is one reason the Rochester Police Locust Club opposed legislation by Rochester City Council to create a Police Accountability Board. Union officials said review of video was part of existing accountability for police officers.
James said communities had to apply for the funds and the process is closed. She said at some point she wants to accept new applications and she said she wants the state legislature to help with funding for the camera systems.
Law enforcement agencies in Albany, Amherst, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Suffolk County, Syracuse, Troy, Utica and Ulster and Westchester counties received money from the Office of the Attorney General for their programs.