Allentown police are scheduled to be wearing body cameras effective November 1.
Mayor Ed Pawlowski and Police Chief Glen Dorney unveiled the body cameras last night during a public meeting in City Council Chambers attended by 30 persons.
The body cameras were purchased from VIEVU of Seattle, Washington with the help of a $500,000 matching grant from the U.S Department of Justice. The city was awarded the competitive grant during the first round of funding in September 2015.
Pawlowski said, “We are pleased to be among the first law enforcement agencies in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to implement body cameras. This is a significant step forward. The cameras protect the general public as well as our officers and the integrity of our officers.”
Dorney says the cameras will be a great benefit. “The cameras will be great for evidence and for the accountability of the men and women of the department as well as the entire community.”
One-hundred-fifty of the 200 cameras purchased will be assigned to the patrol division. Officers will activate the camera by flipping a switch. The camera will record 30 frames a second. The video will be stored on a server capable of retaining 40-50 terabytes of data which is more than 1000 times the storage capacity of the average smart phone. Data will roll off the server in 60 days.
According to Dorney, while the cameras will be a tremendous help, they do have limitations. “The camera does not follow an officer’s eyes. The camera may not see as well as a human in low light and an officer’s body may block the camera’s view.”
Body camera policy is the result of input from Allentown police, the Lehigh County District Attorney’s Office and the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance.
The mandatory storage of the video and the public’s access to it are governed by recently enacted state law. Among other things, the measure allows police to record audio and video inside private homes — previous laws only allowed video — and it removes previous state wiretapping regulations that required officers to make an announcement when recording in public places.