State Police Passing Costs to Local on Body, Dash Cams

While many police departments have been working to procure body-worn and dashboard cameras in accordance with new requirements, smaller towns with resident state troopers learned last month they bear significant cost.

Body camera on police officer
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(TNS) — While many municipal police departments have been working to procure body-worn and dashboard cameras in accordance with new requirements set forth in last year's state police reform law, smaller towns with resident state troopers learned last month that they need to purchase, store, and maintain all images from cameras they use.

"Please know that (state police) shall not be responsible for the purchase or storage of data from dashboard cameras or body-worn cameras for any resident trooper town constables," Col. Stavros Mellekas wrote in the letter informing the towns, adding that state police also would not be responsible for fulfilling requests for such data made under the state's Freedom of Information Act.

Requests for video from resident trooper and constable body or dashboard cameras from court officials to be used in a judicial case wasn't specified in the letter, however.

In response to questions from the Journal Inquirer, agency spokesman state Trooper Josue J. Dorelus said state police previously took responsibility for camera data in towns that required their constables to use such devices. State police have been using body-worn and dashboard cameras prior to the law's passage.

"Those seeking to FOI video footage obtained by (dashboard) or (body-worn cameras) of constabulary officers will have to make that request through the individual towns," he said. "The individual towns have been advised of the change in procedure, which is currently in effect."

This change has left some small towns bustling to be in compliance or understand what it means for their budgets.

In recent weeks the Journal Inquirer reached out to area towns that have resident state trooper offices and state police constabulary officers, but many did not respond to requests for comment. However, officials in Ellington and Somers said they were actively searching for vendors who would be able to digitally store camera data and ensure that it is available in the event that public information requests are made.

Kim LaFleur , Somers' operations director, said officials expected to take on "a huge cost" because "video takes up so much space," but she said exact dollar figures had not yet been determined.

"It's a big deal; we have to make sure we do our due diligence," she said. LaFleur noted that Somers was seeking to purchase its first cameras for its four constables, as well as a data storage plan, as part of a single package and would go out to bid to find the best price.

Additionally, she said, the town would pursue grant funding for the cost, which she said is available from the state for towns that have financial difficulty complying with the law.

Sgt. Brian Santa , Ellington's resident state trooper, said constables in that town currently do not have cameras, unlike the five state troopers assigned to the office. Prior to the letter from Mellekas, Santa said officials assumed data from constables' cameras, which the town is moving to purchase, would be stored by state police and the state agency it falls under, the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.

Santa said the town of Ellington anticipates having to spend up to $110,000 for the camera equipment and data storage and, like Somers, is seeking vendors that can provide all of the technology in one combined package. However, he added that there could be additional costs associated with the labor needed to fulfill freedom of information requests.

"There could be extra costs to get the town attorney involved," he said.

Ellington First Selectwoman Lori Spielman said the state should pay for the data storage rather than "dumping it on the towns." She said Ellington previously considered adopting police cameras prior to last year's state law but found that the costs were prohibitively expensive.

"They're putting this on each town and it's costing us a lot of money," she said.

The town, Santa said, is weighing its options between cloud-based storage options and physical servers. "Every company is different," he said.

It may not always come down to the lowest bidder, though.

Santa pointed out that, per Mellekas' letter, towns need to use technology that is interoperable with the equipment being used by state police.

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