Stratford Police now wearing body cameras

Stratford Police Officer Erika Ortiz and other patrol officers are now wearing body cameras while on duty. — Melvin Mason photo

Stratford Police officers are now donning new equipment as they go to work on the town’s streets: body cameras.

SPD officers began wearing the cameras about two weeks ago, allowing for video to be captured when patrol officers respond to a scene and to record interviews.

The department tested different cameras randomly since last year, said Capt. Frank Eannotti.

“We’ve decided to deploy them throughout our patrol force, so we’ll have cameras on the road every shift on all of our patrol officers,” Eannotti said.
Sixty-five of the 70 body cameras are in current use with the remaining five available as spares. The cameras are turned on when officers respond to a scene, including to record interviews with witnesses or during traffic stops. The cameras will not be active the entire time an officer is on duty.  

“We’re looking forward to enhancing our patrol operations,” Eannotti said last Thursday, saying the cameras will help in the collection of evidence and information and record interactions with the public. The department can also review their interactions as well, Eannotti said.

An up-close view of the body camera Stratford Police officers are wearing.

Civil rights groups nationwide have called for more police departments to place body cameras on officers in light of allegations of police brutality and overaction by officers. Eannotti said the cameras will help with transparency on police interactions with the public.

“I think if anything the cameras are going to help in a situation because it’s going to clear everything up,” Eannotti said. “Everything is going to be recorded. People record us. We’ve had [dashboard] cameras in cars for years. So many people have cameras mounted on their houses. It’s just a sign of the times. We’re just looking at it as a tool, as a positive thing that we can put out there and that’s just going to assist the officers in doing their jobs.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut is among the groups applauding Stratford’s use of body cameras.
“Our organization has long been advocating for cameras for several years and we know from other jurisdictions that the technology does work,” said David McGuire, executive director of ACLU-CT.

McGuire says departments that use body cameras have fewer complaints from citizens.

“Police accountability is one of our organization’s big issues. Body cameras are a big piece of that puzzle,” he said.

McGuire noted that the cameras are as effective as the policies governing them as well as people having access to the recordings.

“They [Stratford Police] are showing they are transparent and they have nothing to hide. But only if people have meaningful access to the footage,” McGuire said.

Eannotti said mundane recordings will be stored for 90 days, but those involved in an investigation can be retained for at least four years. All the recordings can be made available to the public via requests made through the Freedom of Information Act.

Stratford Police received the cameras and servers through a reimbursement grant program offered by the state Office of Policy and Management. Stratford paid $84,000 for the body cameras and associated equipment. The town’s cost will be $2,400, Eannotti said.

Eannotti said there is no set evaluation time for the camera program. “We’re invested into it and we’re running full speed with it with the whole patrol unit division,” he said.

OPM spokesman Chris McClure said 11 police departments statewide have been reimbursed so far through the program and 16 other departments have applications pending or are awaiting reimbursement.

Other Fairfield County police departments have been using body cameras for years. New Canaan Police have used the cameras for about three years.

Wilton has had body cameras since 2015, sharing 15 body cameras between the department’s 43 officers.

Redding Police have used cameras for more than three years.

About author
Editor for the Stratford Star. Former reporter for the Darien Times.

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