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Most Connecticut police departments meet body camera deadline – NBC Connecticut

For years, some Connecticut police departments have recorded the actions of officers on the job. The public generally only sees these recordings when an officer’s actions are questioned.

Until recently, only certain police officers were required to wear body cameras, including Connecticut State Police and public college and university police. Now it is mandatory for all state law enforcement officers.

The Police Transparency and Accountability Act passed in 2020 set July 1, 2022 as the deadline for departments to equip their officers with body cameras and cruisers with dash cams.

NBC Connecticut Investigates conducted a survey to see how many departments were ready by the deadline. The answer is – almost all of them.

According to our investigation, at least ten police departments have acquired body cameras in the past six months. Police officers in Avon, Easton, Fairfield, Middletown, West Haven, Weston, Willimantic, Windsor Locks and Middletown are now equipped with the equipment.

Officers from the DEEP Environmental Conservation Police and the University of New Haven Police also began wearing body cameras this year.

Four departments told NBC Connecticut they have body cameras but installed dash cams in police vehicles to comply with the law. These are Bristol, East Hartford, Torrington and Stamford.

“We want to make sure the public knows we’re trying to do the right thing, that we’re treating people well,” said Middletown Police Lt. Brian Hubbs.

Hubbs has been wearing his body camera for about a month and said he preferred his actions to be filmed.

“Yes, there is an aspect of responsibility to this, but one of the other aspects of this is that it allows us to have an objective view,” he said. “They can see their own emotions on camera and say, ‘you know what, maybe I shouldn’t have reacted that way.’ And now they have a different perspective for next time.

The law requires officers to record all interactions with the public when acting in law enforcement, including motor vehicle stops, taking statements from suspects, witnesses and victims, transporting and processing prisoners, and executing arrest and search warrants. There are a few exceptions.

“Private conversations, certainly in a locker room, that sort of thing,” Milford Police Chief Keith Mello said. “And I think sometimes when the public sees that, that the body camera is off, and they assume that something is being done or said that shouldn’t and it isn’t. There’s no requirement [for] police officers to register each other. It’s just that the requirement is to record that interaction with the public or that seizure of evidence and so on.

Milford Police Chief Keith Mello helped develop the Police Officer Training and Standards Board (POST) policy on the use of body and dashboard cameras. Milford was one of the first state departments to start using body cameras in 2011.

NBC Connecticut

Police body cameras charge.

NBC Connecticut Investigates spoke with multiple police chiefs throughout our investigation. The main reason why some departments have delayed the purchase of cameras is the cost. Municipalities can get a partial refund of the initial cost, but storing the huge amount of video files requires a huge amount of money.

The Police Transparency and Accountability Act authorized $4 million in reimbursement grants for departments to purchase the equipment. The reimbursement rate is 50% for municipalities in difficulty and 30% for municipalities not in difficulty.

Services that took advantage of the subsidy in 2015, before cameras were mandatory, were reimbursed 100%.

But after the one-time reimbursement, the ministries are alone for the permanent costs.

“We just spent $1.3 million on a five-year program. And it’s every five years and it’s still going up. I think the last time we did that we spent about a million. So those costs are significant and they continue to rise,” Mello said.

Only two departments told NBC Connecticut they expected to miss the July 1 deadline. Newington Police said supply chain issues caused the manufacturer to delay shipping. The MDC Police Department also said his purchase was pending.

We await responses from the Aquarion Water Company Police Department and the Connecticut State Capitol Police.

Going forward, departments must have the cameras to receive accreditation from POST, according to Mello.