The state of Rhode Island and the University of Rhode Island are discussing the possibility of providing university and community police with body cameras.
According to new URI Police Major Michael Jagoda, there is a committee in Rhode Island that is discussing the possibility of using body cameras. Jagoda, who has been promoting a “community policing” standard since he started at the university this fall, said he is in favor of body cams for police. Â
Implementing body cameras at the university will present some challenges when it comes to working with this specific technology, which the university does not currently possess. “When we talk about technology we talk about a lot of challenges,” Jagoda said, citing costs, privacy rights and the release of the information gathered as potential challenges he foresees. Â
“There are going to be privacy issues…if the public or media asks for that, what can we release what we can’t,” Jagoda said. “How long are we going to store [information] for, are our current databases compatible with the software and technology of a body camera? What are the expenses to that community?”
A statement released by the university two weeks ago said they are researching the possibility of providing the police with the cameras. They stated that, “Such tools may promote greater transparency and be an additional source for evidence, however implementation will require comprehensive policy changes, and possible legislative action in the next session.” The Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association is looking into many of those issues as well, according to the statement.
Body cameras, also referred to as body cams or cop cams, are small, pager-sized cameras that clip on to an officer’s uniform and record both audio and video of the interactions between the officer and the public, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
“I think that is the easy part, getting the equipment,” Jagoda said. “But we need to have a policy in place, and we think it is important that we have a statewide policy that’s consistent.”
Jagoda also said that in order to implement body cams effectively, police will need more training. “I think it’s part of supervision, that there are supervisors out there, making sure that the policies are being followed, that officers aren’t arbitrarily turning on and off their cameras whenever they want,” he said. “We have to have a clear guidance on where we are going to go.”
If police body cams are implemented at URI, Jagoda thinks they will get the officers and the public to act more professional knowing that they are being filmed.
“If we are going to video police interactions, I want them to see it from the police officer’s view and I want the entire incident to be recorded, not just partial,” Jagoda said. He also said the recordings would help provide evidence in prosecutions.
According to the Providence Journal, the URI Chapter of the American Association of University Professors said the body cameras would “provide important recordings of interactions between citizens and police, and will protect the police themselves from inaccurate reports of incidents involving use of deadly force.”
Some communities in other states have already mandated the use of body cameras under the Department of Justice. Rhode Island legislatures are slated to review the issue of body cameras when the session resumes in January.