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Pleasantville police will most likely be wearing body cams by 2024 after the Village Board authorized Chief Erik Grutzner last week to accept a $20,000 state grant.
The grant, from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, will partially pay for cameras for the department’s 22 officers when they are on duty.
“We are looking at the initial upkeep and there are different companies out there,” Grutzner said.
The body-worn cameras, or BWCs, cost about $800 each. The initial outlay for the cameras and cloud storage fees is expected to be about $40,000.
Grutzner said most body cam vendors offer bundled packages that include automatic software upgrades, charging stations, operating licenses and unlimited cloud storage needed to maintain video footage to be used as evidence, if needed. Storage, maintenance and licensing will be recurring expenses each year.
“It’s more effective for each officer to have their own camera, which is recommended for accountability,” Grutzner said. “We can expect to have body cams for each officer, especially the patrol officers.”
Grutzner told the board that the issue of law enforcement use of body cameras was raised during the public police reform meetings mandated by former governor Andrew Cuomo in 2020 and 2021 in response to the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Cuomo’s executive order required local police agencies to comprehensively review policies, procedures and practices.
Among the final recommendations resulting from the Pleasantville police reform meetings was to research the cost and maintenance of body cameras. Grutzner said the cameras would clarify incidents by recording unbiased versions of events.
“Our point of view is we’ve had a number of incidents that have occurred that rise to the level of concern and where we have two conflicting stories,” he said.
According to the National Institute of Justice, nearly half of law enforcement agencies in the United States now use body-worn cameras. The seven states mandating their use are Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Carolina.
In 2016, the Greenburgh, Ossining and Peekskill police departments were among the first municipalities in Westchester County to start a BWC program for their officers. Westchester County started its program in 2018.
In June 2020, Cuomo signed legislation requiring all state police troopers to wear body cameras while on patrol. The following year the state police rolled out a BWC program, and today body cams are being worn by roughly 3,000 troopers statewide.
In 2021, the New Rochelle Police Department introduced body cams for 80 of its officers. Today BWCs are worn by all New Rochelle officers, detectives and supervisors assigned to street duty. That same year the Yorktown Police Department purchased 37 body cameras for its officers.
Arguments favoring body cams are that they protect police officers and citizens against false accusations, claims of misconduct or abuse while increasing transparency and accountability of officers. The cameras may also help prevent and de-escalate confrontational situations between officers and civilians.
But for many small departments such as Pleasantville, the cameras’ expense is a challenge. Other criticisms are that the cameras invade citizen privacy and expose victims.
For now, the Pleasantville Police Department is taking the steps to acquire body cams.
“I view it as something we need to do,” said Mayor Peter Scherer. “It will be part of the budget process to consider. Taking this step is important and also inevitable. At some date and time every department will have this.”
Abby is a local journalist who has reported on breaking news for more than 20 years. She currently covers community issues in The Examiner as a full-time reporter and has written for the paper since its inception in 2007. Read more from Abby’s editor-author bio here. Read Abbys’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/ab-lub2019/