ALBANY – State police say they plan to go forward with a body camera pilot program for state troopers, a move that would change the agency’s status as one of the few primary state law enforcement agencies in the nation without body or dashboard cameras.
Kevin Bruen, first deputy superintendent of the New York State Police, disclosed the plan for a pilot program Monday at the state Capitol. He did not provide details of the plan, such as how many troopers will receive the devices and how much money the pilot program might cost.
His comments come months after a nationwide Associated Press survey found that New York State Police are the country’s largest primary state law enforcement agency not equipped with body or dashboard cameras.
Without operating those devices, New York State Police continue to remain an anomaly compared to police forces in large cities and state police agencies across the U.S., the Associated Press survey found.
Many primary state-level policing agencies do not operate body cameras, but do use dashboard cameras.
Patrol cameras are regularly praised by law enforcement experts as ways to increase transparency and hold officers and citizens accountable.
Equipping state police with body cameras has received support from New York Attorney General Letitia James. In her analysis of a 2018 fatal shooting in Stanfordville, in which a state trooper shot a resident in the parking lot of his own restaurant, James's office included wearing body cameras as one way in which state police could have improved their handling of the situation.
The investigation into whether the officer was justified in shooting the resident stretched on for a year, and James wrote body camera footage could have provided a clear picture of what happened on the day of the shooting.
"We encourage state police and lawmakers responsible for funding to join the thousands of other law enforcement agencies around the state and country that have worked to equip their members with body-worn cameras," the analysis read.
Some state lawmakers have also expressed support for bringing the technology to the agency.
New York State Police has said it once had VHS cameras and later digital cameras on a limited number of vehicles. But, according to the agency, it did not have the money to continue the VHS cameras and the digital cameras required “costly maintenance.”