Cornell Police implements body-camera program

Author: 
Nancy Doolittle
Officer Beverly Van Cleef, left, Lt. Anthony Bellamy and Officer Brett Cary wear the new body cameras.

PHOTO GALLERY

Cornell University Police have a new tool to aid in their investigations and enhance public confidence and support.

As of Jan. 16, all uniformed police officers have been equipped with body-worn cameras, which they are required to wear full time while on duty and to activate for every service call. Cornell Police policy includes provisions to ensure that the privacy of victims is protected.

“After several years of research, the officers and I are pleased that we are now implementing body-worn cameras and have this important tool incorporated into our operations,” said Police Chief Kathy Zoner.

Zoner noted that the introduction of body-worn cameras was something police officers and the public had requested. “While body-worn cameras certainly are only a part of what goes into investigating criminal cases and public complaints, we and the community are on the same page that this equipment provides greater opportunity for objective review,” she said.

Deputy Chief David Honan said the benefits of implementing a camera program include strengthening police accountability to the community for all interactions during law enforcement efforts; improving agency transparency; improving evidence documentation; quicker and more thorough investigations of officer-involved situations and complaints; and strengthening officer performance.

“Until recently, the cost of the technology was prohibitive,” he said. “With the growing national conversation about police operation and interaction with the public, we wanted the cameras so the community could know that Cornell’s officers are doing what is expected of them. In the event there is a question about an officer’s actions, the video gives us an additional tool to investigate and alleviate the concerns of the public.”

All uniformed officers, from patrol officers to the chief of police, have been trained on policy and operational procedures, with a testing and soft rollout period of camera use during winter break. The cameras are water-resistant and designed to be durable to withstand the weather and varied challenges that policing a large university can bring. The department purchased cameras for each sworn officer, with a couple extra so that spares are available if needed.

Officers can download camera data to a central secured server from a dock in the office or right from their patrol vehicles if needed, eliminating concerns about camera memory and storage while on patrol.

Patrol Officer William Carpenter, president of the Cornell Police Union, said the union is pleased that Cornell University Police leadership have implemented the use of body-worn cameras.

“We fully support the use of the cameras, which will enhance our jobs as police officers,” he said. “Transparency to the Cornell community is of utmost importance to the Cornell Police Union.”