Letter to the Editor – Shoot More … Pictures! 1/20/20  PUBLISHED

We have shootings galore on the streets of Wilmington, but the police need to start shooting … pictures! We have had four years of talking about Body Cams for Wilmington P D; Enough talk.

The city owes it to its citizens and the cops to fund Body Cams for police and activate them as soon as possible. Maybe take money from some of the contractors dealing with the City who are falling short on their performance.

The goal of any investigation involving police is determining the truth, and Body Cams are the best way to do that. Yes, there may be the odd case where there is “more to the story” than the camera shows, but those situations are rare.

Increase the safety of officers and enhance the chances of convicting criminals by equipping Wilmington P D officers with Body Cams!

Ken Abraham, former prosecutor, founder of Citizens for Criminal JUSTICE, 302-423-4067, Dover, DE

This letter was PUBLISHED in the state’s largest paper on the day of its largest circulation: P A 25 The Wilmington News Journal on 1/26/20.

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Excerpts from the Article:

The adoption of body cameras for Wilmington’s police force may hinge on expected negotiations with the city’s police union this year. City officials still disagree with some City Council members on how to pay for the long-proposed camera program, which over the past four years has been delayed amid the department’s transition to a new police chief and the rejection of a federal grant.

Now, the program must clear another hurdle before the city purchases the cameras: The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1, which represents Wilmington officers, has told Mayor Mike Purzycki’s administration that any disciplinary procedures or consequences stemming from a body camera program is a condition of employment that must be negotiated with the union before officers begin wearing them.

At another public safety committee meeting Monday, activists supporting Yahim Harris, a teenager who was shot by Wilmington police last year as he ran from a stolen car, confronted Chief Robert Tracy about the department’s lack of body cameras.

But officials say there is currently no way to enforce any discipline resulting from the cameras or camera footage, or if an officer does not turn on the camera during an incident.

Not all police unions have demanded negotiations on body camera-related policies as a condition of police officers’ employment, though it is not uncommon nationally.

New Castle County’s police department, which has used body cameras since 2015, specifies when a camera must be turned on but does not specify sanctions.

“A large majority of the time our officers are doing the right things,” he added. “We don’t really push back on that policy all too often.”

Plans to outfit police in Delaware’s largest city with body cameras to record their interactions with civilians have been discussed since 2015, when the department began testing a handful of camera models.

At the time, a wave of municipalities were adopting body cameras as the nation reeled from high-profile police shootings, particularly of unarmed black men.

Since then, many cities have backed out of those programs, balking at the high cost of video storage and redaction. Wilmington’s pilot of body cameras concluded in September 2017, shortly after Tracy became chief.

After City Councilman Trippi Congo’s prompting last year, Tracy issued a report on the costs over five years, which includes equipment, upgrades and video storage from Axon (formerly known as Taser International), and the hiring of one sergeant and three officers to administer the program.

He estimated it would cost more than $1 million in the first year and over $800,000 each year after that. That estimate came in May, and the city budget – which was passed that same month – did not include funding for body cameras.

Instead, city officials applied for a $2 million federal grant that would have covered the initial costs. But the department was not awarded the grant.

Tracy told the public safety committee in November that the department lost out because of errors in the “technical wording” of the grant application. He said Wilmington police will reapply this year.

The Whole Story