Police unveil new body cameras

The new body camera, worn here by Officer Shane Russell, is visible just below the left front shirt pocket. — Donald Eng photo
The new body camera, worn here by Officer Shane Russell, is visible just below the left front shirt pocket. — Donald Eng photo

Trumbull police will now have an additional source of evidence in a range of situations ranging from criminal arrests to citizen complaints, thanks to the new department policy of officers wearing body cameras.

“I am pleased that Trumbull officers are now equipped with body worn cameras during patrol duties,” said Police Chief Michael Lombardo. “The camera will record evidence and interactions with the community providing another level of transparency and depicting the fine work done by the officers.”

The body cameras are the culmination of several years of planning, funding requests, and training, said Lt. Douglas Smith. Officers have been wearing them since late last year, he said.

“The program was officially launched over a year ago after the department researched several options for the body-worn cameras and eventually purchased 20 cameras and a new computer server for storing the camera recordings in compliance with state of Connecticut standards,” Smith said in a statement. “Officers received training in the wearing and use of the cameras, which will be reviewed with them annually.”

Body cameras are mandatory for officers to wear while on patrol, and optional for traffic directing and private duty, Smith said.

“When they go out on patrol, they grab a camera, and at the end of their shift they place it back into a docking station that downloads the contents and charges the camera’s battery for the next use,” he said.

The cameras were purchased with grant funding at a cost of about $20,000, Smith said. The recordings will be stored on a dedicated server that also contains the audio-visual files from the department’s vehicle cameras that have been in use for several years.

The body cameras can provide useful video evidence in criminal cases by creating an audio and visual record of an incident, Smith said.

“They also allow the department to review the recordings for training and professional standards evaluations, and will aid in the investigation of citizen complaints,” he said.

Smith said the cameras will be used under a department policy that dictates when the camera is to be activated, and specific situations when it should not be used. The situations where a camera would be turned off are limited to situations where confidentiality could be an issue like those involving juveniles or some medical calls.

“Other than very limited situations, the presumption is that the camera is on,” Smith said.

Trumbull’s body and vehicle cameras were purchased from WatchGuard, a video company in Texas. The department plans to add more camera systems with the purchase of each new vehicle. Each camera system, which includes vehicle camera, body camera, and all the related hardware and software, costs about $5,000, Smith said.