The initiative to outfit Schenectady police officers with body cameras is moving forward, but not as quickly as first envisioned.
In November, the Schenectady City Council voted to accept a $165,000 grant, along with a local match, for cameras and equipment to outfit the Electric City's 110 patrol officers. At the same time, police body cams in the neighboring city of Albany were just beginning to go live.
The Schenectady Police Department announced it was considering camera options and had begun determining policy. At the time, an optimistic Assistant Chief Michael Seber told WAMC the rollout of body cams would not follow a strict timetable. "We wanna make sure we experiment with as many cameras as we can to make sure we get the right technology, research the laws, make sure we write a solid policy that's acceptable in court and protects peoples' rights. We're hopeful by the end of next summer, early, early fall, to roll it out department-wide."
By the end of February, a handful of officers were expected to have begun field testing different makes and models of body cams. But there's been a delay: Sgt. Matt Dearing explains. "We did receive a grant which allowed or is going to allow us to purchase some. But part of the grant has some stipulations on it. One of them is we need to have two officers attend a conference in regards to kind of the policy writing and training of body camera usage. So those things still need to be met before body cameras can be rolled out to all the officers, as well as having different vendors come in with different types of body cameras, having officers test them and see which one would best suit our needs."
Terms of the grant from the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance require formation of a stakeholder committee comprised of police officials, community members and attorneys to comment, set policies and select equipment. Officials say that committee will meet for the first time later this week. Some committee members were picked by Mayor Gary McCarthy, who could not be reached for comment.
Dearing says Schenectady has been observing the implementation in Albany, which deployed body cams after two years of preparation that included public forums and product evaluations. "we obviously do monitor all the local departments and see kinda where they stand. You know, if they have a policy, that's something that we look into to see what their policy is, and again, we'll always need to tailor one to our specific needs. But the more we have to go off of from surrounding agencies also helps."
SPD officers carry audio microphones and their cruisers are equipped with dash cams. With body cam testing now expected to begin in June, officials say a full rollout is likely next winter.