South Portland police to wear body cameras

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The Police Department next month will become the first in greater Portland to outfit officers with body cameras.

The department first approached the City Council in June 2015 about purchasing body cameras, in the wake of incidents in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York, that resulted in the deaths of two black men at the hands of police.

The department applied for about $18,500 in funding from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance program to supplement the purchase of body cameras for some of the officers.

In April, as part of the city’s capital improvement budget, the department requested additional funding to purchase a total of 24 body cameras, and three transfer stations for data collecting, docking and charging. The nearly $50,000 was taken from the city’s year-end undesignated fund balance.

The two dozen cameras will allow the department to use 12 per shift, Lt. Frank Clark said Wednesday afternoon, while providing “the necessary time for the others to charge and download.”

The department also requested $40,000 in funding to bridge the gap and equip every officer with a stun gun.

In a Facebook post Wednesday morning, the department said it would introduce the cameras during a 7 p.m. public forum at the police station, 30 Anthoine St., on Wednesday, Jan. 18. Officers will discuss uses for body cameras and field questions from residents.

“The department has, for many years, had video recording capability in the cruisers, with traffic stops, arrests and other interactions being recorded,” the post said. “The body camera program will serve to enhance that effort.”

Officers will wear body cameras during service calls and during any interactions with the public, according to the department.

The purpose of body cameras is to hold the public and officers accountable. They will allow video review of arrests, traffic stops and investigations; training and evaluation of officers, and evaluation of legal claims or allegations of officer misconduct against the department.

Other benefits are expected to include better case preparation, collection of evidence and improved courtroom testimony.

“The goals are to protect the public, the officer and the department by helping to accurately document events, actions, conditions and statements made during police-public contacts, arrests and critical incidents,” the department said on Facebook.

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA.

The South Portland Police Department announced Dec. 4 that officers will soon deploy body cameras.

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.