Greater New Haven police consider taking a second look at body cams
NEW HAVEN, May 16, 2013 (New Haven Register - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The Taser changed policing, and now Taser International hopes to change policing again.
The company hopes to do that with its Axon wearable body cameras, which representatives from Taser pitched to the New Haven Police Department Wednesday.
Officials from the Hamden, Branford, Yale, Southern Connecticut State University, and University of New Haven police departments joined New Haven police to listen to the pitch.
The wearable cameras are designed to record police interaction with the public. About 6,000 Axon units have been adopted by nearly 500 law enforcement agencies across the country, said Josh Isner, northeast sales executive for Taser International.
Isner said early adopters of body cam technology have experienced drastic reductions in complaints against officers and use of force by officers.
When people know they're on video -- both police and public -- they act more professionally, Isner said.
"In the last couple weeks, an article came out in The New York Times that was a detailed study of the effects of on-officer video, and the article was actually from Rialto Police Department in California," Isner said. "And they found an 87 percent drop in complaints against officers and a 59 percent drop in uses of force."
New Haven Police Chief Dean Esserman said the concept behind the Axon body cams is an attractive one.
"I think a video tells the truth," Esserman said. "And I think the truth is only good for the police officer and the citizen."
Hamden Police Chief Thomas Wydra said 36 body cameras will hit Hamden streets within a month or two.
The Taser Axon works with Evidence.com, a web service handled by Taser International that will back-up videos recorded by Axon cameras automatically, so that police agencies don't need to spend money on labor or additional IT equipment.
Esserman encouraged all department officials in attendance to consider devising a unified body cam policy.
Louis Cavaliere Jr., president of the New Haven Police Union, said there is some skepticism about the body cams among the rank and file.
"But, from what we're hearing from other agencies that are using them, they are working for the officers. It's clearing up and exonerating a lot of officers who have allegations made against them," Cavaliere said.
Michael Bellmore can be reached at 203-789-5282.
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