POUGHKEEPSIE – The city’s administration, with funding from the common council, has started phasing in body-worn cameras (BWCs) for the Poughkeepsie city police force.
Mayor Rob Rolison said the city is investing $510,120 in the Axom 2 BWCs over the next five years. That expenditure includes 65 BWCs, docking stations for charging and downloading, as well as clothing-mounting hardware.
Rolison said the city is investing in a number of public safety areas, “From infrastructure, police vehicles, repairs and enhancements in police headquarters, the body cams, we brought back community policing, the school resource officer,” he said.
In 2019 the city entered into a five-year lease agreement with AXON, a company that provides products such as body-worn cameras to law enforcement, military, and civilians around the globe.
Police Chief Tom Pape spent a considerable amount of time researching the various BWCs available before choosing AXON as the provider. The chief’s research included interviewing a multitude of departments across the country that use BWCs to find out the various pros and cons of that department’s system, equipment, and vendor. In addition to researching the physical aspects, Chief Pape also researched various departments’ policies regulating the BWC system. After a thorough review, Chief Pape and his command staff developed a policy for his department that was reviewed by experts, including civil rights attorneys, and complies with federal and state laws while following best practices.
The intent of issuing BWCs to the officers is to provide more transparency about how officers operate in the field, including the situations to which they respond. “We’re excited about this latest development,” said Rolison. “It’s part of a year-long rollout of initiatives that have made this department stronger and should instill even more public confidence in our police force.”
The administration’s initiatives include the re-establishment of the Community Policing Division, a School Resource Officer (SRO) for the high and middle schools, streamlining the complaint process, and the publishing of the 657-page police department policies and procedures on the city’s website.
PBA President and member of the Community Policing Division, Officer Kevin Van Wagner said that most of the department’s members have undergone training for the BWCs and they were deployed on the street last week. “The only bad thing I have heard regarding the cameras is due to bail reform. With the new discovery process, it’s a lot more work for the detective bureau because it all has to be done in a limited amount of time.” The new law requires that evidence, in most cases, be turned over to the defendant within fifteen days. “For every officer that shows up at an incident, all of that footage has to be downloaded, placed into evidence, and sent over to the DA’s office,” said Van Wagner.
The union president indicated that the BWCs are beneficial to both the officers and the community, but expressed his displeasure with the additional work created by the new bail reform laws. “It’s creating a lot more work for us and we have the governor of New York State to thank for that!”
“Just as they have with these other changes, the officers handled the body camera training exceedingly well,” said Chief Pape. “We look forward to continuing to serve the public and I believe the cameras will prove an asset to the city.”