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Politics & Government

Bill mandating police body cameras takes a step forward

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Annie Ropeik
/
Delaware Public Media

Legislation requiring police body cameras statewide advances to the full House for debate.

The bill would require police officers to wear the cameras while on duty, and task the Council on Police Training to develop standards and regulations for body camera use statewide.

The vote to release the bill from the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee meeting was unanimous, but it wasn’t without debate.

State Rep. Steve Smyk (R-Milton) raised concerns about leaving the Fraternal of Police and Delaware State Trooper Association out of the process of writing the law.

The measure would require all public facing officers to wear body-worn cameras, and new regulations for them be drafted by the Council on Police Training.

While Smyk and others say both unions support body cams, Smyk adds the groups indicated not having their input could cause issues down the road.

"They have not had meetings and they have not had their fingers into this bill. It's definite that they should because this is only going to end up in a matter of court," said Smyk.

State Rep. Ruth Briggs King (R-Georgetown) believes the General Assembly should do its job, and then the unions can negotiate a policy within their own CBA’s.

"Our job as legislators is to legislate and then we'll let the people that need to negotiate to negotiate the terms of whatever we determine because we can't be held hostage by different collective bargaining agencies," said Briggs King. "We need to ensure what we're doing in being firm, fair, and consistent. They will negotiate the best terms as they do now."

Univ. of Delaware Police Chief Patrick Ogden chairs the Delaware Police Chiefs Council.  He says creating a blanket law for all officers wearing a camera could cause certain privacy issues.

"Imagine this, you have Capitol police officers in Legislative Hall. I know that there's a lot of side conversations that go on in those hallways. Do you want these police officers walking past you when you are having a sidebar about some legislative issue and they're recording it with their body worn camera or the governor with his executive protection detail, those officers, those troopers are out there with their cameras," said Ogden.

The legislation also calls for two public hearings to be held during the drafting of regulations to help ensure input into their creation.

Gov. John Carney is also asking for around $3.5 million in funding this year in this year's budget for body cameras and data storage.

 

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