Update: City Seeking Public Input Regarding Police Body Cams

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(Update, May 30) – The city will host two public information sessions in an effort to garner the community’s input regarding Axon’s recent proposal to outfit the Syracuse Police Department with an additional 100 body cameras.

The first meeting will take place on June 6, at 7 p.m., in the Institute of Technology at Syracuse Central, and the second will take place  on June 7, at 12 p.m., in the Onondaga County Public Library Central Library.

“We’re trying to spread the word about these meetings, because we want to hear from the community,” SPD said in a statement. “Most of what people know about body cams comes from stories they’ve seen on the news, but there is a lot more to the program that we would like to share.”

Officers are slated to demonstrate how the cameras are used, and to show how the data will be stored during the event. 

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(From May 18) – There is a proposal in front of the Syracuse Common Council that could outfit 100 city police officers with body cameras for free.

Axon, the company that makes these body cams, is offering this deal as a free trial of their product. Down the line, they aim to have the entire force supplied with this technology.

First Deputy Police Chief Joseph Cecile and Mayor Ben Walsh came together on this offer in support, urging the council to consider the year-long trial.

“Our research has not discovered any other BodyCams company offering a free, full year field trial of equipment as broad-ranging as this one,” they said.

The theory behind body cameras on police officers is that it will benefit both the officer and the citizens. Officers who are subjected to dangerous situations on duty will have compelling evidence of any criminal activity following an arrest. Likewise, citizens will be able to hold officers accountable for their actions during the arrest.

Hopefully, these devices will actually make a difference over time, as FBI data reveals that 66 officers were killed in 2016 while on duty.

Safety is a big concern when it comes to policing dangerous districts. While the average age of retirement nationwide is 63 years old, police officers often face huge incentives to retire early.

The question is, do body cameras actually make either police officers or criminal suspects any safer than before?

Apparently there’s a lot of conflicting evidence. The most inclusive and thorough study so far has shown disappointing results for civilian complaint rates, which remained broadly the same after implementing body cameras in our nation’s capital. On the other hand, local municipalities in other states have seen great public safety improvement metrics.

The word is still out on body cams and likely will remain so until they are more widely adopted. For Syracuse, though, a free trial could be a great way to get a glimpse into the future of policing technology. Since there would be no commitment to purchase Axon’s body cams at the end of the year trial, leaders in the community are working to push this forward in the next two months.

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