U.S. Sen. Chris Coons said he “strongly” supports Gov. John Carney’s push to equip every officer in the First State with a body-worn camera by the end of the year.
To that end, the federal government is backing the push with dollars.
Through a congressionally directed spending provision, Sen. Coons, D-Del., said last week that $1.6 million will be distributed to agencies statewide through the Delaware Criminal Justice Council.
The money will support “longer-term operating costs, particularly for the smaller agencies, because buying cameras is not the critical cost. The storage and servicing and sustainment is, and so if I were the chief in a smaller agency, I’d be saying ‘OK, this is great,’” he said.
Such support is crucial, he added, because “if you have to choose between hiring another officer and data storage, (I believe that) most communities are going to want other officers now.”
In July 2021, Gov. Carney signed legislation requiring that all police officers in Delaware, along with certain members of the Department of Correction and the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families, don the cameras. The state budget allocated $3.6 million to assist law enforcement agencies, and the first purchase is expected by summer or before, according to the Department of Safety and Homeland Security. DSHS has reported that at least 21 agencies already have BWCs in their inventories.
Sen. Coons opined that, “You want cameras on everybody. And broadly speaking, the (Fraternal Order of Police) has embraced it. And officers I’ve spoken to have embraced it. In their view, that transparency and accountability, far more often than not, actually is to their benefit.”
And when “folks come in and complain about this or that, they’re able to say, ‘Oh, yeah, really? Here’s the (video). I was actually treating you respectfully,’” he added.
There’s widespread support for the cameras, as a push for more police accountability continues, the senator said.
“I think this is one area where you’ve got broad agreement from advocates and activists promoting for the great trend (to) further police transparency and accountability,” he said.
“A younger generation of officers are used to it, accept it and understand it can actually be to their benefit. So it’s something I support. We’ve got to think about the 2,400 police officers in the state.”
Currently, a Delaware Council on Police Training subcommittee is crafting regulations regarding police officers’ utilization of body-worn cameras.
Last week, the full council approved updated recommendations, and residents will have an upcoming opportunity to provide comment, as well.
The subcommittee’s suggestions involved school resource officer capacity and information about stopping recording when speaking with a witness or member of the public, as well as clarified the conditions of releasing video of a use-of-force incident resulting in death or serious bodily injury.
Some members of the public weighed in during the last open session, COPT member and University of Delaware Police Chief Patrick Ogden said. Also providing input was the Delaware Department of Justice, the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens and the State Council for Persons With Disabilities.
Following the public comment period, the full council could vote on the recommendations again during its meeting in July, Chief Ogden said.
Once adopted in some form, the regulations will be part of officers’ training before they are certified by COPT.
Chief Ogden, who is also a subcommittee member, said the rules will be a framework for individual agencies, so they can create or adjust their own policies. Eventually, he’d like to see statewide regulations developed on a number of fronts.
COPT voting members (who can utilize proxies) include: