Multiple agencies throughout the first state still needing body cameras to comply with HB 195

DELAWARE – Body-worn cameras have been a hot topic, especially within the last two years.

The cameras are said to help clarify the narrative for the public, as well as the investigators when it comes to alleged police misconduct. While 21 agencies throughout the state do have them, 17 don’t and the ones that don’t are on a bit of a time crunch.

“Transparency is really a neutral value, it’s something that the public and the police should both value equally,” says Mike Bricker with Delaware’s American Civil Liberties Union.

After last year’s historical passing of House Bill 195 requires all police agencies in the state of Delaware to wear body cameras, some agencies throughout the state such as Seaford police worked in double time to get them implemented.

“My goal was to improve transparency, I mean that’s kind of the big goal for the 21st century policing model,” says Chief of Seaford Police, Marshall Craft.

Brickner with the ACLU says many agencies have yet to purchase cameras.

“Video importance is really important as we’ve seen over the last several years in countless different deaths that have happened at the hands of law enforcement officers,” says Brickner. He tells 47 ABC, the Department Safety of Homeland Security is making sure agencies that need funding for the initiative, get it as soon as possible. “Other agencies that weren’t considering or didn’t have plans already in motion to get body-worn cameras are really waiting for the funding to come through.”

Some of those agencies waiting on funding, or have yet to implement them include, Delaware State Police, Blades, Delmar, Dewey Beach, Ellendale, Elsmere, Frankford, Kenton, Lewes, Newport, Viola, Wyoming, Delaware Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement, Delaware Capitol Police, DNREC Fish & Wildlife, Delaware Department of Correction and Youth Rehabilitative Services. While some others like Seaford PD have them, Chief Craft states that for smaller agencies, it’s not going to happen overnight.

“You’re talking about warranties, licenses, cloud storage and you really need unlimited storage which is a much higher cost.” Chief Craft adds, “You need virtual servers because you need to have redundancy and you have to upgrade wireless access points and docking stations, there’s a lot to it. They have to be able to ensure they meet the requirements once they put that policy in place.”

Delaware State Police provided us with a statement when asked about their lack of body-worn cameras which states, “The Delaware State Police is committed to having our troopers throughout the state wear body-worn cameras. This initiative remains a priority as we are currently hiring and training civilian employees to manage digital evidence associated with this program. We are also aggressively working towards ensuring each trooper receives the necessary training. We understand and recognize the importance of body-worn cameras to the community and law enforcement and look forward to their implementation in the near future.”

However, Chief Craft says it’s going to take strong partnerships between the state and agencies to get these cameras, the logistics, and some transparency.

“When you start off on the right foot and you communicate that you’re being recorded, it kind of puts everybody on a little bit more level footing.” He adds, “Our goal with these cameras is to document the observations, and behaviors, gather additional evidence, and hopefully deter any unprofessional illegal behavior.”

Chief Craft also tells us, that the cameras also help reduce the use of force when both involved parties know they’re being recorded, which in the end helps everyone. Chief Craft also advises agencies to work with a police chief advisory board to incorporate the body cameras.

Brickner with the ACLU also says he and other police reform advocates are working to have body-cam footage be available for public viewing. He says the footage can help educate community members, create a better relationship, and also hold police accountable.

The program is overseen by the DSHS which asked agencies to submit requests for their needs and preferred vendor by January 7th. All agencies are expected to have them by the end of the year.

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