Body, cruiser cameras coming soon to Shelton police

Shelton Police

Shelton Police

Contributed photo

SHELTON — City police officers will be donning body cameras and driving with dash cams by early next year, well before the state-mandated deadline of July 1, 2022.

The Board of Aldermen, at its meeting Thursday, approved a five-year contract with Axon, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company which develops technology for military and law enforcement, including a line of body cameras and, a cloud-based digital evidence platform.

“(The cameras) are another set of eyes capturing an incident,” Lt. Robert Kozlowsky told Hearst Connecticut Media. “But the cameras are not the end-all, be-all. It is still important to do a thorough investigation.”

The aldermen also approved spending $131,712 in the first year of the contract, with the remaining costs — $42,132 annually for years two through five — being placed in the Police Department budget. The total cost will be $300,240.

Kozlowsky said the department will purchase 50 body cameras and 20 in-vehicle cruiser cameras.

By entering into the contract before year’s end, the department can access state grant funds to help cover the cost. The department must pay up front but now has the ability to recoup as much as 30 percent of the initial $131,712 payment, plus 30 percent of the hardware cost each year of the remaining four years. In all, department officials estimate being reimbursed about $56,000.

Through the 2020 Police Accountability Law, all police departments in the state are required to have body cameras and cruiser cams by July 1, 2022. The law, passed in the wake of national protests against racial injustice and police brutality after the killing of George Floyd, went into effect Oct. 1, 2020.

Among the new rules included in the law are tighter restrictions on police searches, a duty to intervene if police witness another officer using excessive force and penalties for civilians who call in an incident based on race.

Other changes to policing brought by the law, including adjustments to qualified immunity that protect police from lawsuits over their conduct and further restrictions on the use of deadly force, went into effect this year.

Kozlowsky said the cameras and other hardware would be delivered by early 2022, and he expects that the equipment will be ready, and the officers trained in time to allow full implementation by spring of 2022.

“We are track to be up and running well before the deadline,” Kozlowsky said.

Chief Shawn Sequeira said officers have been fully prepared for the introduction of the cameras.

“We’ve had some trial runs where certain officers wore assigned body cameras on-shift and there was little resistance,” Sequeira said.

“We are police officers, and we adapt and overcome,” he said. “We have been through these challenges with cameras were first placed in cruisers and GPS in was installed. Like any change, things progress in time.”

Kozlowsky said any change, particularly having to wear cameras while on the job, can be difficult. With that in mind, Kozlowsky said the command staff asked officers to volunteer to test out the equipment before any decision on company or style of camera was selected.

“The feedback was positive,” Kozlowsky said. “At the end of the day this is a benefit to the department.”

Sequeira said he believes the body cameras will reveal a more accurate perspective of incidents that may need to show how officers handle situations in a positive light.

“They also protect the citizens as well as the officers,” he said. “The majority of us officers do our jobs and have nothing to hide. The Shelton PD prides itself on integrity.”

Kozlowsky said with today’s technology, people understand they could be videoed at any time. Police in particular have been the focus of people’s cellular phone cameras when on an incident scene.

“With a cell phone, you don’t know when the video was started or if it has been edited,” Kozlowsky said. “For police, here, we will have the entire video of an incident, from beginning to end. It will make more sense when viewing the video.”