Body-worn cameras for the Rochester Police Department

by Reverend Lewis W. Stewart,
United Christian Leadership Ministry
Presented during a press conference on January 19, 2015

(Distributed at this press conference was also “Recommended Body-Worn Camera Policy for the Rochester Police Department” from the Rochester Coalition for Police Reform)

Prior to the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and afterwards, the United Christian Leadership Ministry and Coalition members held several meetings with Mayor Warren, City Council President Loretta Scott and City Council Public Safety Committee Chairman Adam McFadden to explore ways of improving community-police relations. Our conversations focused on an independent Civilian Review Process with subpoena power and investigative authority as well as body cameras.

After the Ferguson rebellion and the murders of persons of color in numerous cities in the U.S. by representatives of law enforcement, and in addition, conflicts with the Rochester Police Department concerning incidents of excessive force particularly against city residents such as Brenda Hardaway, Benny Warr, the wife of Kerry Coleman, Clem Long and others.

The Rochester Coalition of Police Reform and UCLM in considering tools for improving police community relations, decided to initially focus on body cameras. We did the research and then went back and had conversations with various members of city council to ascertain their thinking on body cameras. Their main concern focused on the need for policies relative to cameras. We also met with the President of the Police Locust Club, Michael Mazzeo and Monroe County Sheriff, Patrick O’Flynn.

During our research, we discovered that some police departments have policies and some do not. These policies vary across the country. In our own metropolitan area, Gates has body cameras and no coherent policies. Greece lacks cogent policies. Without policies, you may as well not have body cameras.

Our team met and developed written policies and guidelines for this new cutting edge technology.

It is not a magic bullet which will resolve conflicts between the police and the public. We view body worn cameras and police cruiser dash board cameras as significant tools to reshape overall police community relations. The actual goals of the cameras are the following:

  1. To reduce crime
  2. Reduce excessive use of force by the police
  3. Improve Police-Community relations
  4. Provide safety for the public as well as the police
  5. Cameras provide the opportunity to proceed against officers who perpetrate dehumanizing and racist behaviors as well as excessive force
  6. This is a win for everyone

The policy guidelines which we have developed cover categories from ACTIVATION, to PRIVACY, RETENTION, and CIVILIAN OVERSIGHT.

These polices have been submitted to the Mayor’s office as well as city council.

Our task was not only to develop these policies but to have input into the fashioning of public policy debate on body cameras and dash board cameras.

We express gratitude to the Mayor and City Council and the police for their intentions to implement body camera policies.

We also thank members of the Policy Team for their diligence and hard work in developing these policies.

Body worn cameras are a part of our Community Safety Agenda which include:

  1. Independent Civilian Review with subpoena power and investigative authority
  2. Curtailment of Stop and Frisk (an end to Racial Profiling)
  3. Right to Consent to search
  4. Anti-racism Training for the Rochester Police Department
  5. Body Worn Cameras and Dash Board Cameras

Thank you.

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