DOVER — The first of two scheduled public comment sessions regarding police officers donning body-worn cameras in Delaware took place at the Dover Police Department on Thursday night, with an audience of five civilians at the start.
Fleur McKendell, president for the NAACP’s Central Delaware Branch, stressed the importance of public input from civil rights organizations and local communities during the process of forming body-worn camera regulations.
She also pushed for police to always make their policies publicly available and allow community members to voice their opinions when changes are made.
Additionally, Ms. McKendell said, the NAACP wants “departments to adopt systems to monitor and audit access to recorded storage and secure footage against unauthorized access and tampering.”
Among other points, Ms. McKendell said the NAACP would like to see police departments “make footage available to promote police accountability and obviously this has been a very big topic of discussion across the country ...”
Footage documenting police abuse should be made publicly available and to the press upon request, Ms. McKendell said.
“Footage should be made available in a timely manner to any filmed subject seeking to file a complaint to criminal defendants and next of kin of anyone whose death is related to the events captured on the video.”
Ms. McKendell advocated for departments to prohibit officers from viewing footage before filing their reports.
ACLU of Delaware Policy and Advocacy Director Javonne Rich spoke as well.
The ACLU is pushing for body cameras to continuously record and retain activity of the 30 seconds prior to a police officer activating their camera.
According to the ACLU, cameras should be activated whenever a law enforcement officer responds to a call for service or investigates an encounter with a member of the public, except when there’s an immediate threat to the officer’s life or safety that doesn’t allow for activation.
The ACLU is pushing for cameras to be equipped with video and audio recording functions.
“If possible, police officers should also notify the members of the public that they are being recorded,” Ms. Rich said.
Ms. Rich said that, “To ensure accountability, any officer who fails to adhere to the recording requirements should have appropriate disciplinary action taken against them.”
The session was hosted by the Council on Police Training. The sessions are required by House Bill 195 that will bring state regulations for the mandated use of body-worn cameras by police.
Anyone can send written comments or proposals to the COPT care of Susan.A.McNatt@delaware.gov. The official period to comment on actual proposed regulations is expected to be January, Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security spokesman Arshon Howard said.
A meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 9 at the New Castle County Police Department at 3601 N. DuPont Highway in New Castle. The COPT is considering options for scheduling a session in Sussex County as well.