Delaware Public Media

Impending statewide police body cam policy voluntary

Feb 16, 2016

Attorney General Matt Denn (D) says a uniform, statewide police body camera policy is expected to be finalized in the next 30 days, but is not binding to any agency in Delaware.

 

 

The document has been a work in progress for months among top police officials and elected state officials, with some city departments already starting to use the cameras.

 

The document will have little teeth to force any department to follow it, with Denn saying law enforcement departments aren’t legally bound to it.

“I don’t think it’ll be necessary," he said. "I think that it is in the departments’ interests to have a uniform policy because if they don’t it’ll create issues for their departments’ cases when they come to trial.”

He roughly estimates 15,000 hours of staff time to review potential video footage, asking the budget writing Joint Finance Committee for five new employees to review it, costing more than $415,000 a year.

Some state lawmakers on the committee expressed concerns over that price tag. Co-chair Sen. Harris McDowell (D-Wilmington North) questioned the need for more well-paid employees having to analyze the footage, suggesting the department partner with universities to have students review it.

Fellow co-chair Rep. Melanie George Smith (D-Bear) asked if the increased cost is worth it when prosecutors go to trial, considering police have been taking traditional notes of interviews for decades.

"Notes are great and we always relied on them...but if there's technology available, the courts have said use it and if you don't use it, you'd better say why," said State Prosecutor Kathleen Jennings.

Gov. Jack Markell (D) proposed creating one new position to oversee body cam footage for the AG's office in his recent budget presentation, but no additional workers for the Public Defender's office.

“If we didn’t get the funding and we got the footage, it would mean that our prosecutors would have that much more work to do in the same finite period of the time and it would cause the same consequences I described in the hearing as to heavier than acceptable caseloads," Denn said.

JFC will wrap up budget hearings in the beginning of March, with final mark up work scheduled for early June.