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Dover police expanding community policing, testing body cameras in 2021

Roman Battaglia
Delaware Public Media

The Dover Police Department announced reforms to increase transparency and accountability back in June.


And the department says they’ve now completed many of these.


Dover Police Chief Thomas Johnson committed to several reforms this summer in the wake of nationwide protests over police brutality and racial injustice. 


One focus of Johnson’s reforms was an expansion of Dover’s community policing unit. He now says it will be doubled to ten officers in 2021.


“Those officers, unless urgently needed elsewhere for some type of an emergency or or departmental challenges — which I’ll tell you right now is gonna be the exception, not the rule. They will be focusing on all the best practices of community policing that we can identify as appropriate for Dover.”


Community policing has been talked about by state legislators as an effective way to reduce racial injustice and build relationships between police and the communities they serve.


Johnson says those ten officers will act as leaders in building a culture of community policing in the department.


Alongside the expansion of community policing, the chief is also meeting with members of the community to advise on policing issues.


The Dover Police Department also remains one of the few in Delaware that don’t use body cameras.


But that may soon change, as the department is now in the process of testing different body cameras to find the best fit. 


Johnson says there’s a lot of unexpected factors when first shopping for a body camera vendor.


“When we’re looking at the technology and what that vendor offers and what they say you have to do or not do to use their tools to the best capacity. It’s advanced calculus.”


One big issue is storage, since the department wants to hold onto as much footage as it can for as long as possible, but that kind of storage is expensive, and cataloging and searching for old footage can be time-consuming.


Johnson says he wants to make sure the storage process is easy and organized, to make it easier to pull up old recordings for courts and hearings but also for the general public.


The chief says he’s not sure when they’ll be able to pick a body camera vendor, and wants to take time to ensure that when he goes to the city council with a big price tag, the system works well for the police department and the citizens of Dover.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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