Body-Camera Use by Syracuse Police: Your Input Can Help Shape Policies

May 21, 2019

Body-worn camera similar to those used by Syracuse Police. Public can weigh in on policy and use of body cameras through online survey.
Credit Wikimedia commons

Syracuse Police are ready to take the next step in their body-worn Camera program.  The department is looking for feedback to make the technology the most effective.

You’ve probably heard of police using body cameras that record interactions during a traffic stop or house call.  Syracuse Police Public Information Officer Sergeant Matthew Malinowsky says a new public survey is meant to make sure usage of the cameras meets community expectations.

“…us as a city being as transparent as possible.  So when we’re trying to get the community’s view, we’d like to see exactly what their opinions are.  And also, we wanted to be transparent with our workforce.  What’s their opinions on (body-worn camera use); how’s it working out for them.  And as we get the feedback, we’ll be able to tailor the program.”

He admits it’s been a bit of an adjustment for officers … but it can benefit them as well. 

“No one likes to be recorded … sometimes.  But I think as the officers realize that the public seems to appreciate the cameras and there’s been some civilian complaints levied against the officer and actually the body-camera footage has proven that civilian complaint to be inaccurate.”

Common Councilor Steve Thompson heads the Public Safety Committee.  The council has approved expanding the program.  As a former police chief, he knows cameras can make the public feel safer and clear up complaints

“Let’s face it, there are times when individuals and the officers may clash because it’s a heated situation, because officers are called to those situations.  It isn’t a situation where you say, ‘see the person made a false claim.’  It’s in the heat of the moment.  What they see maybe different than what the camera catches.”

The public survey is accessed through the city’s and police department’s social media sites.  They’ll also make paper copies available.  Officers are also being asked about their opinions … all to adjust policies going forward.  Find a copy of the current body-worn camera policy here.

The public survey should take 3-5 minutes to complete.  It asks about opinions on: whether the public and police officers might behave better during any interactions if they knew they were being recorded; if people have privacy concerns; how often cameras should be used, among other questions.  

Police officers, in their side of the survey, are being asked:  if body-worn cameras might increase public trust; if they might reduce conduct and excessive force complaints if people knew they were in use; if the use of cameras might influence their use of force, even at times when it might be deemed necessary, among other opinions.   

The survey is open through June 15th.