Scranton, Pa., PD Tries to Secure Funding for Gun-Mounted Cameras

The technology would supplement officer-worn body cameras and pulling the handgun from its holster would automatically activate the camera.

by Jim Lockwood, The Times-Tribune / September 24, 2018

(TNS) — SCRANTON, Pa. — To complement new police officer body cameras, the Scranton Police Department seeks a federal grant to buy weapon-mounted cameras.

The department is implementing body cameras as an evidence-based approach to reduce complaints of police misconduct and use-of-force incidents. After procurement and training phases are finished, body cameras are scheduled for deployment by the end of 2018.

Worn on the front of a uniform, body cameras improve officer professionalism and encounters with the public, promote accountability and transparency, and enhance officer safety, a grant application said.

But because an officer’s holding of a handgun in some situations may partially obscure the view from a body camera, a camera mounted on the weapon would provide another vantage.

“The weapon-mounted cameras provide video and audio at that crucial moment when an officer is required to unholster his or her weapon,” the police department’s grant application says.

“When you extend your arms out in a natural (handgun) deployment situation, you’re obstructing the view of a body camera,” Police Chief Carl Graziano said in a phone interview.

A handgun camera would be housed in a flashlight device fitted on the gun frame, the chief said.

Pulling a handgun from its holster would automatically activate the camera, he said. The light would not go on automatically but would need to be manually activated. That’s because an officer may not need the light or, in certain tactical situations, may not want the light turned on.

“If we do get the grant, we’re going to do a trial with them, test them out and see how it goes,” Graziano said.

On Sept. 17, city council voted 4-0 to introduce an ordinance from Mayor Bill Courtright for a $21,053 federal grant to buy 42 weapon-mounted cameras. The city would fund the $3,947 purchase of eight additional cameras, to bring the total to 50.

Council members voiced strong support for the initiative, noting the police department strives for transparency and seeks various grants for technology to achieve the goal.

“In my five years on this council, they have really gone above and beyond in transparency and to use technology to be extremely efficient,” Councilman Bill Gaughan said.

“They’re not afraid of technology. They embrace it, and we’re all the better for it,” Councilman Wayne Evans said.

Councilman Tim Perry called the weapon-mounted cameras “another tool in the toolbox to help serve the people.”

Council may vote at its meeting tonight at 6 at City Hall on advancing the ordinance on second reading. If advanced tonight, the legislation would get a third vote on adoption at council’s meeting Oct. 1.

According to the grant application, the program’s goals include promoting accountability, transparency and trust, and improving officer professionalism and encounters with the public.

The department will post on its website the camera policy, and track and document the number of requests for camera footage from the media and the public. The department also will share footage from body-worn and weapon-mounted cameras with the public, “provided the release does not compromise an investigation or violate the law.”

Weapon-mounted cameras would be the latest upgrade for the department. In March, dashboard cameras on police vehicles went into use, followed in May by implementation of a new records management system. In June, council approved the city’s authorization of purchase for 110 body cameras.

The department has a total of 147 officers.

©2018 The Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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