Sheriff’s deputies on patrol and prison officers to wear body cams

ALBANY COUNTY — The sheriff’s office here is among 13 local law-enforcement agencies across New York to receive a total of $1 million for body-worn cameras.

The Albany County Sheriff’s Office will receive $69,151 for 43 body-worn camera systems, six body-worn camera docking stations, and other accessories.

The awards are being made through the State Attorney General’s Capture an Account of a Material Situation program. CAMS was launched in July 2018 and is funded with money recovered from organized crime takedowns by the attorney general’s office.

The Albany County Sheriff’s Office, which on Jan. 1 will have 99 officers, currently has no body cameras, according to Chief Deputy William Rice, although it does use in-car cameras.

Asked who among those 99 officers will be getting the cameras, Rice said, “The sheriff wants the road patrols to have them because they have the most interaction with civilians. He also wants to put some in the correctional facility.”

Asked why the office wanted body cameras, Rice said, “It’s just another tool. All of our interviews are recorded.” Having recorded records, Rice said, is in the best interest of the public and also helpful for the officers in gathering evidence, for instance, in an arrest for drunk driving where a field-sobriety test would be recorded.

“We have nothing to hide,” said Rice.

In addition to the cameras, the grant money will cover six docking stations, which, Rice said, will be “where they offload film.” No policy has yet been developed for handling the film but, Rice said, he assumes it will be similar to the policy for the car cameras now in use.

“We pull the video if we need it for evidence or if there is a civilian complaint,” he said.

The department, he estimated, gets complaints just “a handful of times a year.” He concluded, “We’ve been really lucky.”

Local law-enforcement agencies around the state will be able to purchase 959 body-worn cameras, 258 body-worn camera systems (which include cameras and other components, such as storage or accessories), and numerous camera accessories, such as docking stations and mount clips, according to a release from the attorney general’s office, which says that the cameras create independent accounts of encounters between police and the public, increasing transparency and accountability and often providing critical evidence in investigations.

In addition to funds provided through the CAMS program, local law-enforcement agencies applying for the grant are responsible for securing a 25-percent funding match. The match helps increase the scope of the overall body-worn camera program.

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