Updated: Oct 15, 2020
Photo by Lynne Deliman
The Stowe Township Police Department is one of the local police forces looking into funding for body cameras. Pictured above: Chief Matt Preininger, Officer Koritsky, Officer Turner and Officer Short.
By Jamie Wiggan
Since George Floyd’s death in May by the hands of Minneapolis police, law enforcement agencies across the country have come under increased scrutiny.
One way local police departments are responding to the public backlash is by pushing for body camera usage, which they say also protects officers.
“In today’s environment everything we’re doing is getting questioned, so to have the audio and visual support would be a good thing,” said Kennedy Police Chief Anthony Bruni.
Bruni said research indicates more often than not, body-cameras resolve issues favorably for police; but he accepted they also serve to keep officers accountable.
“If a police officer is doing something wrong, I wanna know about it,” he said. “…but we have a great department, we have nothing to hide.”
Bruni said he is keen to obtain body cameras but has not yet secured funding for them. Storing the video data collected results in high long-term costs in addition to the upfront purchase, Bruni added.
Officials at Crafton and Coraopolis have already approved department-wide body camera purchases in the months following Floyd’s death. On June 8, Crafton Council authorized the purchase of 10 cameras and related software at an estimated cost of $26,872.
A month later, the Coraopolis council approved purchases of up to 10 body cameras at a maximum cost of $25,000, during its July 8 business meeting.
Coraopolis Chief Ronald Denbow said he expects body cameras will soon become compulsory.
Matt Preininger, Stowe’s police chief,
agrees. “I think that’s the way we have to go,” he said.
“It’s the way of the future, it protects both sides.”
Preininger said he has not requested budgetary allocations for body cameras from the municipality, but said he has been exploring funding options that include federal grants and assistance available from District Attorney Stephen Zappala’s office.
Robin Parrilla, Stowe’s board president, said the township is committed to funding whatever the police department needs.
“Money’s not an object to the officers’ safety,” Parrilla said.
Officials and police chiefs in neighboring communities also say they’re working to obtain body cameras.
“It’s definitely something we’re moving forward on,” said Ingram President Sam Nucci.
McKees Rocks Police Chief Rick Deliman declined to comment for the story.
Robinson Police Chief Tim Westwood did not return requests for comment.
Responses to Floyd’s death, and other police-related incidents involving Black lives, have varied starkly across the country. Although most local and state officials have called for modest reforms, city councilmembers in Minneapolis went as far as passing legislation to “defund” its police department.
Pennsylvania lawmakers passed two police reform bills in July.
Collectively they mandate increased transparency of officer disciplinary records, evaluations of police mental health and a range of training initiatives promoting de-escalation and discouraging racial bias. Many departments already train officers in these areas.