BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — As of 3:30 p.m. Thursday, a select number of Buffalo Police Officers will be wearing body cameras for the first time in department history.
BPD has purchased 550 Axon brand cameras for all patrol officers around the city.
It’s a three million-dollar investment that Captain Jeff Rinaldo says will help keep the department transparent and up to date on the latest police technology.
“Eventually when the videos come in to the public, I think it’s going to show the tough job our officers face day in and day out,” Rinaldo said in an exclusive interview with 7 Eyewitness News reporter Hannah Buehler. “I think it’s going to show how great we do interact with the public, how much restraint our officers have, how much discretion our officers use.”
Rinaldo says at the start of each officer’s shift, they will turn on their assigned body camera. The camera will remain on and attached to an officer’s uniform for the entire ten-hour shift.
Officers are required to record each interaction with the public. An officer will turn their camera on for a service call when; issuing a warrant, conducting a traffic stop, conducting an investigation, during a pursuit, during a protest or a large crowd gathering, or any other interaction deemed necessary by the police commissioner.
You can read the policy here.
Rinaldo says while officers are required to record specific interactions, he understands there may be times when it’s just not possible.
“Officer safety is paramount,” he said. “I’m never going to expect an officer to put themselves in harms way and avoid protecting themselves or a citizen because they have to activate a camera.”
However; Rinaldo says if an officer repeatedly neglects to turn on on his or her camera, there will be disciplinary action, and an investigation by internal affairs.
The video is legally owned by the Buffalo Police Department. Rinaldo says Erie County District Attorney John Flynn does not want any video released to the public while there is an ongoing criminal investigation. Rinaldo says following the conclusion of that, members of the public can submit a Freedom of Information Request or F.O.I.L. for video.
If a person has a complaint about officer conduct that was caught on body camera video, and that person is directly involved with the video, Rinaldo says that person can come to Buffalo Police Department Headquarters and view the video with a member of internal affairs.
“I think the program will definitely strengthen the transparency of the department, as well as the community relationships that we’ve worked on for so many years,” he said.
The department is working on training all its officers on using this equipment. Training will take about a month. Once an officer is trained, they will start using the camera on their next shift.