November 4, 2015

Ithaca Police Begin Wearing Body Cameras

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Ithaca Police Department officers began wearing body cameras Monday afternoon, according to the police department.

All patrol officers will be required to wear body cameras and every officer expected to be engaged in “law enforcement operations” — which include but are not limited to traffic stops, arrests, searches, physical or verbal confrontations and execution of warrants  — will now be required to record their activities through their body-worn cameras, according to the new policy issued by Ithaca Police Chief John Barber.

“The use of cameras is intended to assist officers in the performance of their duties, increase transparency and accountability of IPD operations and gather evidence for use in the prosecution of crimes,” the policy reads.

Officers will be required to activate recording on their body-worn cameras at the beginning of each “law enforcement operation,” however, officers may not record between operations, according to the policy.

Officers are also not required to disclose when they are recording through their body cameras, but are expected to complete recordings once they begin until the “law enforcement operation” is completed or a supervisor permits the end of the recording. Officers may stop recordings at their discretion in interview situations where a victim’s privacy may be at risk, a witness cooperating with the police fears for his or her safety or an informant in an investigative case is confidential.

Except under certain exceptions, IPD will keep videos saved from recordings on the body cameras for six months after the recording date before they are automatically deleted. The recordings will be kept as property of the City of Ithaca during this time.

Mayor Svante Myrick ’09, who presented his 2016 city budget recommendation last month, allocated an increase of $120,000 for strategic investments within the police department in his recommendation. Part of this increase is intended to go to the purchase of body cameras.

The IPD has already partnered with the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office in April in an effort to equip officers with body-worn cameras. The initiative was first introduced by Myrick in August 2014.

Myrick said that he was “pleased” with the new policy, in the release, and said that the cameras would help increase accountability between the IPD and the local community.

The body cameras that IPD officers began wearing Monday are produced by Taser International.