BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- Some Buffalo Police officers could have body cameras by the end of the summer as part of a pilot program. The department has been looking into adding them for about two years.
Buffalo Police officers do not currently wear body cameras and there are no dash cameras in their vehicles.
Commissioner Daniel Derenda put together a panel to look into the possibility of adding body cameras. The panel includes members of the BPD administration, the union representing the officers, the District Attorney’s office, the corporation counsel and internal affairs.
Lt. Jeff Rinaldo, who spearheaded the effort to get body cameras, told News 4 the panel studied the equipment on the market and the costs and legal issues of storing the video.
The panel presented a draft policy to Commissioner Derenda. According to Lt. Rinaldo, the Commissioner has given the go-ahead to ask camera manufacturing companies to submit proposals for a pilot program. The request for proposals is expected to go out by the end of the month.
“A lot of officers have told us that they welcome the addition of it,” said Kevin Kennedy, the president of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association. “The data is showing in a lot of instances where departments have initiated a program like this that complaints against officers have gone down.”
Kennedy said the video footage could be useful to review when a civilian makes a complaint against an officer.
He told News 4, however, the cameras do have limitations.
“The camera is not going to be able to tell you ‘I was thinking this’, ‘I was feeling this’, ‘I got a sensation this was going to happen’,” said Kennedy.
The placement of the camera can also be tricky.
Kennedy explained to us how a camera placed on the chest could have a restricted view when an officer reaches for a service weapon.
“You’re going to raise it up to chest level and you’re going to cross your arms, that body camera is going to pick up the back of your hand,” said Kennedy.
Lt. Rinaldo told News 4 placement is one of the issues they will hopefully work out in the pilot program, which is expected to start this summer.
Common Council Member Joseph Golombek said he supports getting cameras but he has some concerns.
“I think that they’re an aid but it’s going to open up more problems,” said Golombek.
He told News 4 the cameras could change the way police officers do their job
“You get pulled over for speeding, there’s no leeway anymore,” said Golombek. “An officer, I believe, is going to be concerned he or she is going to get in trouble for giving someone a break.”
Lt. Rinaldo told News 4 most of the cameras on the market right now have to be tapped on and off by an officer.
They hope to test out a number of different kinds of cameras in the pilot program, looking at durability, quality of video and how the video downloads.
Lt. Rinaldo said body cameras could cost upwards of a million dollars a year.