Interactions between police and members of the public continue to face scrutiny around the state and the country. And one tool could soon be an addition for a state trooper: A body camera.
The union that represents New York's state troopers would not oppose efforts to require their members to wear body cameras. PBA of New York State President Thomas Mungeer sees a benefit.
“There's an exact record of what happened,” Mungeer said. “There's no more, sometimes people file false claims against a trooper, and that should take that away.”
But body cameras would come at a cost. Mungeer estimates the cameras would require $3,000 per unit every year in order to provide training, maintenance and response to Freedom of Information Law requests. Overall, he says $15 million would be needed every year, about what the state police spend on vehicles.
“We're very cautious about the overall cost and how it's going to affect overall police operations, whether it's manpower shortages, equipment shortages or whatever,” said Mungeer.
And the rules for body cameras, when they would be turned on, and even if state troopers wear them at all, would be subject to the next contract.
“That would be subject, we believe, to collective bargaining,” said Mungeer. “You have to be very careful. Just for an example, dealing with children, dealing with domestic incidents, anything like that. There has to be rules when you turn it on, when you turn it off.”
Mungeer says body cameras wouldn't change how troopers go about their jobs. Policing, he said, did not change after cameras on the dashboards of cars were introduced.
“You definitely don't change the way you do the job,” said Mungeer. “You just go out and do what you were trained to do.”
To give a sense of scale, the state police is the second largest police department in the state behind the NYPD, the ninth largest in the country.