Stonington – All police and animal control officers here are now equipped with body cameras, and cameras have been installed in most cruisers.
Capt. Todd Olson said Wednesday that over the past three weeks the police department has been doing a “soft open” with the cameras to allow officers to get used to activating them and then properly labeling recordings. , assign case numbers, and perform other administrative tasks with the case file.
Olson said the department worked on procuring and deploying the cameras even before the General Assembly passed the Police Accountability Act in 2020, which required police departments to deploy body cameras. The city is now allocating $464,187 over the next five years to pay for cameras and cloud storage. Additionally, the department hired its former records clerk Diana Demarco as a police support specialist. She will oversee camera management, record keeping and Freedom of Information Act requests for camera video.
“The benefit of this is the transparency. It sheds a very clear light so we can see what happened, good or bad,” Olson said. “It will also clarify any questions anyone in the public might have.”
Olson said officers are required to activate their cameras when responding to any call for service, which involves all interactions with the public. The cameras also have a buffering feature where they record for 30 seconds before agents activate them.
“They’re good for the officers and good for the public,” he said.
Olson said officers were very responsive to carrying the cameras and did “a terrific job” tagging and performing administrative work related to the recordings. He said tagging is particularly important because the type of incident determines how long records are stored.
He added that cameras have also been installed in the cruisers and will be installed in the four new cruisers the department will receive soon.
Olson said video can now be sent to New London Superior Court much more efficiently when needed in a case.
“The public should be aware that everything they say and do when interacting with law enforcement will now become part of their record. That’s good for everyone,” he said.
Redaction software will allow the department to blur the faces of victims, witnesses, minors and license plates if necessary before releasing the video to the public. If someone requests body camera video, Olson said the person will be charged the nominal cost of the CD it’s placed on, but no administrative fee.
He said the department will work to release the videos in a timely manner when requested by the public. “We want to be transparent when something happens,” he said. “We will work as quickly as possible to provide them to the public.”
Olson said the cameras also have a training benefit for officers. He said the system does a random audit every month of the videos that sergeants and lieutenants would review. They can make comments on each interaction and these are sent to the relevant agents.
State Rep. Greg Howard, R-43rd District, who is also a Stonington Police Detective and a senior member of the Legislature’s Public Safety Committee, said Wednesday that “body cameras are great not only for officers, but also for people who file a complaint because they are telling the truth and to eliminate any misconceptions or misrepresentations.”
He added that his only initial concern was that activating them might distract officers, but he said it would eventually become second nature to officers, like using any other equipment.