Body Cameras Coming To RPD

Dec 18, 2014

Rochester Police are getting body cameras, according to an announcement by city officials. Mayor Lovely Warren joined Police Chief Michael Ciminelli in stressing the potential safety benefits for both police and citizens.

Police Chief Ciminelli explains the police body camera plan.
Credit Veronica Volk / WXXI

Mayor Warren says she thinks the cameras will be essential in helping officers do their job effectively.

"Every day they put themselves in situations where they have to react quickly, and take actions to protect the public and sometimes to protect themselves. Body cameras can be an important tool for all of us if a situation was to arise."

Chief Ciminelli says the department will be doing "vigorous research" in order to make decisions about such things as what cameras to use, and how to implement them.

"There's probably in excess of twenty or more different camera systems that are available so we are going to continue our research project and make decisions on what we think will serve the city best."

President Obama recently announced plans to provide cities with federal funding for body camera programs. Officials say this funding could cover up to half Rochester's costs. One of these body cameras could cost between $600-$1200.

There is also no policy yet in place for wearables, but Chief Ciminelli says they are working on developing one that meets the needs of both citizens and officers.

Locust Club President Mike Mazzeo says he's in favor of the plan, but there's also a lot of work ahead. He says he's considering the ways cameras will shape new police protocols, like:

"Discipline or procedures, access, and the issues of when it's recording [or] not recording, how it's going to affect interactions with citizens on the street who may now know that you're possibly recording them..."

One issue of contention seems to be whether the cameras will have a continuous video stream or whether officers will be able to control the record function on their devices. Mazzeo says he would not support cameras with a continuous stream.

Both the mayor and the chief say this announcement has been months in the making, before the controversial stories of fatal police action caused protests across the country.