Bridgeport Body, dashboard cams return to PD
BRIDGEPORT — Drawing up a policy, setting up software and getting antennas installed were among the things the Bridgeport Police Department needed to accomplish before launching a body and dashboard camera program.
With the program set to go online this month, police and city officials say they expect the cameras to strengthen the trust between police and the public.
“We hope this will help with restoring faith in the community about the police department,” Police Chief Armando Perez said. “It’s about total transparency. We want people to believe in our police department.”
“These body and dash cams will be another solution to benefit officers with efficiency, and to be bring transparency to the department, while making Bridgeport a safer place for everyone,” Mayor Joe Ganim said in a prepared statement.
The cost of this $1.2 million program was covered through a reimbursement federal grant, officials said, covering the cameras and five years of unlimited, guaranteed storage.
The camera installation comes on the heels of a pilot program that ran from early February through the end of April. The purpose of the pilot program was for police to choose an appropriate vendor.
Lt. Manuel Cotto and Sgt. Adam Rozum were tasked with getting the department ready for the cameras — and choosing the best vendor to fit the department.
Ahead of an official rollout, police have declined to say who that vendor is.
Rozum, project manager of the program, will oversee all requests for footage and communicating with the vendor. He’ll redact faces victims or juveniles before releasing any footage to the public or media, police said.
Training for all the 255 patrol, traffic, K-9 and Tactical Narcotics Team officers who will get body cameras is also to be supervised by Rozum. The same goes for installation of 97 dashboard cameras.
Bridgeport police will closely follow the State of Connecticut policy for body-worn cameras, Perez said. But the department will likely make some adjustments.
“An officer that isn’t complying will be dealt with accordingly,” Cotto said.
“We have no tolerance for someone not following the rules on that,” Perez added.
If an officer turns on a body camera, their dashboard cameras will automatically turn on — and vice versa.
Officers who active their body cameras will also cause nearby officers’ cameras to start recording, in case backup is needed.
If an officer gets in a struggle with a suspect, they won’t have to worry about their body camera breaking.
“We had to do tests. We had to see how durable they would be,” Cotto he said. “We threw them off buildings.”
When the body camera is switched on, a automated voice says, “Hello.” It gives a verbal alert when it starts and stops recording.
The body and dashboard cameras also retain up to 30 seconds of footage prior to an officer manually hitting “record,” Cotto said.
“It’s called pre-event time,” Rozum said, and can come in handy if an officer initially forgets to record.
The dashboard cameras will automatically start to record if an officer switches on a police car’s overhead lights, or if the police car goes over 75 mph. All dashboard cameras footage is automatically stored.
Once body camera recordings ends, officers will be prompted to classify the footage, which can be adjusted as needed.
If the footage is critical, it will be stored for up to five years — the current length of the contract Bridgeport police have with the chosen vendor, officials said.
Non-critical footage will be stored for 90 days and then automatically deleted, police said. An example of non-critical footage, Cotto said, would be if someone walked up to an officer and asked for directions.
“Any time our officers are interacting with the public, the cameras will be recording,” he said.
Officials expect this footage will keep officers and the public accountable for their interactions.
“It is important that the city administration and the police department are transparent, accountable for their actions and focus on how to best serve our community” Ganim said in a prepared statement.
“We’re looking forward to the program,” Perez said. “It will hold us (police) accountable. It will show the truth of situations.”