AP NEWS

Somerset Borough police unveil body cameras

April 16, 2019

Somerset Borough police Chief Randy Cox said that the new body cameras being used by officers serve as an indisputable witness to events.

During a press conference Monday, Cox said that the police department began a pilot program in January to introduce the cameras. After a learning curve, the officers have become familiar with the equipment, he said.

A change to the state wiretapping law that went into effect this year allows police to use the cameras without having to announce that they are recording and to use them inside homes.

The Pro-Vision cameras allow officers to view footage on the device.

About two years ago the Somerset Fraternal Order of Eagles donated $4,500 toward the use of cameras. An anonymous donor contributed $5,500, for a total of $10,000.

The department purchased 15 cameras. Although there are 20 officers in the department, five of those don’t typically work on patrol. Each officer is assigned a camera.

To save money the department is also hosting the video locally. Videos are purged every 60 days.

There are docking stations that charge the cameras. When officers return the cameras to the chargers, the video is uploaded to the server. The video cannot be altered, and officers can request to view the footage.

District Attorney Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser said video from the cameras is useful in preparing cases.

“I think it is an incredible tool for us for prosecution,” she said.

Lazzari-Strasiser said that officers from Hooversville, Berlin, Indian Lake and the state police turnpike barracks are using the cameras.

“It seems like we have community nonprofits and individuals stepping up and covering the cost of this,” she said.

Lazzari-Strasiser said that the culture right now is individuals pointing their fingers at law enforcement.

“I think it will give them a great sense of security and confidence out there with whatever they may be facing,” she said.

She said it can also be used as a training tool for officers.

Officer Christopher Pile said he is happy with the cameras. He said that instead of having to give administration his version of events, they are able to review footage.

“I wish I would have had it my entire career,” he said.

Cox said there have already been instances when they have used the cameras. Both incidents involved combative individuals. Cox said he was involved in one of the incidents, and he said that using the video helped him to remember details to write his report.