Darien Police Department body camera program now in use
Body cameras are now a standard piece of equipment for Darien police officers as the department continues to pursue the best possible practices for policing. The devices were fully implemented in June after a brief trial period in April and each member of the force has been trained on their use.
Darien is one of several Connecticut towns to adopt the technology in the wake of national discussions about police conduct. During their 2015 session the Connecticut General Assembly passed legislation to provide financial support to early adopters of body cameras and the Representative Town Meeting approved a special transfer authorizing the purchase of body cameras in September 2016.
Police will use their cameras to regularly document encounters with the public, much in the way that dash cam footage is captured from their vehicles. The video feed operates on a constant buffer and will retain footage from 30-seconds before it was activated by the officer. Body cameras are not in use during medical emergencies or psychological evaluations in order to protect the privacy of those involved.
Footage is retained for 90-days before being deleted, unless the video is linked to an arrest or specific investigation. Recordings from the body cameras can be obtained by the involved parties and are subject to requests under the Freedom of Information Act. Video related to arrests are kept for up to four years to be brought forward in case of litigation or complaints against the department.
While the Darien Police Department has rarely suffered from complaints about their conduct, Chief Ray Osborne and former Chief Duane Lovello have both said that body cameras are now a standard best practice for policing.
“We haven’t been a department that receives an awful lot of complaints and we’ve had the in car video system in use for quite a few years,” Chief Osborne said on Tuesday. “Officers are used to interactions with the public being on camera anyway so this is just kind of an extension of that.”
The strong reputation of the Darien police force and the uncertain cost of adopting the technology led Darien’s Board of Selectmen to decline Lovello’s initial request for cameras in Feb. 2016. However a series of incidents during the summer months, including an accusation of racial profiling and a separate incident of Darien residents filming an arrest, led town officials to revisit their position. While Darien’s officers were not found to be in misconduct these situations highlighted the rapidly changing expectations for police conduct.
Chief Osborne said Darien police are already used to working on film thanks to the dash cameras and the implementation has been smooth so far. However, the Darien Police Association recently withdrew a Feb. 2017 complaint about the implementation process of the cameras, suggesting that some officers may have had grievances with the new technology. The complaint was withdrawn two weeks ago after the department agreed to identify two administrators for the body camera program moving forward and awarded association members with an additional comp day for the current fiscal year.
“The training was relatively easy, most of the guys feel it’s a great thing,” Chief Osborne said. “Not to say that everyone is 100% happy, some of the older guys take a bit more cajoling to adapt to this stuff. But it is a best practice in law enforcement, it is a trend and I believe it’s necessary. It’s certainly going to help us more than hurt us.”