NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk police officers out on patrol will now begin using body cameras attached to their uniforms to record their interactions and improve accountability.
The Norwalk Police Department is implementing the use of 35 body cameras that were purchased using donations from Charles Hinnant of Charkit Chemical Corp. and another private donor. The cameras have been used in recent weeks by some members of the traffic unit and special services unit, but as of Monday the patrol unit will begin using them.
“I think it’s going to be a really positive program overall,” said Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik. He said that while departments such as Westport and Milford have some body cameras, Norwalk will be the largest department in the state to use them.
Each officer will not have their own individual camera, but they will be on the street at all times. The cameras will be activated when an officer is called to respond to a law enforcement situation, and will remain on through the completion of the call. The cameras are always on so when an officer double-taps the camera to start recording, it records the previous 30 seconds as well.
Officers can sync the cameras to phones or computers to review footage, but will not be able to alter or delete any footage the cameras pick up. At the end of the shift, the cameras are plugged into the charging station, which uploads its footage to a cloud storage unit. Deputy Police Chief Susan Zecca is administering the system.
“She’ll be the only person who has access to the video so if there’s any need to gather video to review it, she’ll be the one to do it,” Kulhawik said.
The department is required to keep the footage for at least 30 days. If arrest is made, it will be kept for the duration of the case. If there’s a complaint, a use of force or a lawsuit, it will be kept for three years.
Mayor Harry Rilling, the former chief of police, said the cameras were a step in the right direction. He said they’re appropriate in light of controversial events involving police in the country over the past couple years.
“There’s been a human cry, if you will, for methods of being able to gain data that will help police officers perform their duties, help protect our citizens, and then if there is a question as to what took place, to have the evidence to determine what did take place and what needs to be done about it,” Rilling said.
When complaints are made against officers, Kulhawik said it can often turn into “he said, she said” and can be difficult to substantiate anyone’s claims.
“With the camera, now I can go back and get evidence and see what really happened,” he said.
Studies have shown that with the use of cameras, “Complaints are reduced, use of force incidents are reduced, officer injuries are reduced, citizen injuries are reduced. People behave better when they’re on camera.”
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