Bangor Police Department One Step Closer To Getting Body Cameras
"There's always been a general feeling that this is something that we want to do...just want it to be done in the right way."
Bangor City Councilor, Ben Sprague, came out in support this week, via his Facebook page, of a plan that's been in the works for the better part of this past year; to equip Bangor's Police Department with body cameras.
"I think it creates trust and transparency...It's just about protecting both members of the public and police officers from unsafe situations and absurd, frivolous claims. Now there'll be a record, on the video. I think that body cameras, nationwide, pretty soon will be standard issue. And it's time for Bangor to do that, too."
Earlier this week, Bangor's Police Chief, Mark Hathaway, shared a memo with the City Council outlining what the Department hopes the approval of a body cam program will do for the area:
"The use of BWC (body worn cameras) is common in many police agencies across Maine and throughout the nation. Advancements in technology, to include the camera and video storage capabilities, suggests this is the right time for us to move forward and embrace our ability to improve transparency, advance officer safety and document citizen engagements with members of our department."
Councilor Sprague said in an interview today that the Bangor City Council and the Bangor Police Department have been working hard to address issues of concerns, such as the cost of the equipment and issues regarding privacy of the video recorded on the cameras for individuals with special needs and children.
Addressing the concerns about the proposal's budget, Sprague said the Police Department anticipates the start-up costs to equip the department with body cams-which includes both the purchase of the equipment, and the technology to support it (video storage) to be about $128,600. Sprague says that money was already set aside in last year's municipal budget, for the Police Department, so the City would just have to figure out the cost of maintaining the equipment annually.
Some citizens have voiced concerns over how the department would handle videos taken of people with special needs, children or issues of domestic abuse. Sprague said the City and Police have also been looking in to that.
"What the Police Chief and the City Solicitor, the City Attorney said in last night's meeting was that there are categories, in the law, of videos that can be withheld." So while most of the videos, while stored online for a certain amount of time, could be requested by anyone using the Freedom Of Information Act, there are some instances where the court can choose to withhold the video from being made public."
Sgt. Wade Betters, Public Information Officer for Bangor PD, also addressed concerns he's heard from the public about what will be done with the video collected:
"It’s worth nothing that, just because an incident was “caught on camera” does not mean we can release the entire video or even portions of it to the public. Similar to written reports, we are still bound by the rules of the Maine Freedom of Access Act. That means, when a request for “records” comes in, sometimes all, some or only portions of a video will be considered “public records. When it comes to releasing reports and/or video, we have to be mindful of privacy concerns as well as not jeopardizing someone’s right to a fair (unbiased) trial."
Sprague says that, as with any new program, the Bangor Police Department Personnel would undergo, instruction on how and when to use this new form of technology. He also says he sees the body cams becoming a daily part of each officer's routine, should the matter be approved.
I think we're finally at the point where we've got a proposal and a plan that is all gonna work and it seems like it probably move forward at this point. "
The matter will go before the City Council for discussion again in October.