In an almost completely unanimous vote in both houses, state lawmakers approved a bill on Tuesday, requiring the New York State Police to wear body cameras.
The State Police has been the largest primary, state law enforcement agency still not equipped with body cameras or dashboard cameras.
“I think it's important for us to reconnect with the confidence of the people who live in the state of New York,” Senator Kevin Parker, one of the bill sponsors in the Senate explained. “And this legislation provides the sort of transparency and accountability that people are marching about. “
The New York State Police launched a body camera pilot program earlier this year, but the agency has yet to adopt a final program. This bill passed in both the Senate and Assembly will require Troopers to start recording as soon as they exit their vehicle or interact with anyone, The video must also remain on file.
New York State Trooper PBA President Thomas Mungeer said the union is and always has been supportive of wearing body cameras. It just comes down to cost. The Trooper PBA estimates that purchasing and storing body cameras for all of the state troopers will cost around $15 million every year.
“I don’t need, once we get these cameras, robbing Peter to pay Paul,” NYSTPBA President Mungeer said. “Taking money from say my car allotment going to body cameras. But again, the Trooper’s PBA is not against body cameras.”
In order to fund the program, Senator Parker says the state is looking at using funds already allotted to the NYSP. Lawmakers are also looking at using potential future federal money as well.
“We believe there is enough funding within the context of the police department to actually begin this already,” Senator Parker said. “But obviously we are hoping to get some kind of relief from the federal government for our overall budget, and this would be a part of that.”
This bill will go into effect April 1, 2021. Mungeer says he is glad this is not being implemented right away, allowing officers to get familiar with the equipment.
“April, to me, might be a little more feasible,” Mungeer said. “We might have to test certain cameras, they have to pick what they want, and with an April target date, hopefully, there will be money in the next budget for these cameras.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign this bill potentially as soon as this week.