It’s becoming the norm as police departments around the country implement camera technology in the field. Is the Erie Police Department finally ready? As it installs a dash cam into one cruiser this week for a trial run.
Corporal Tom Lenox and Officer Dustin Landfried of the Erie Police Department initiated a traffic stop. On any given shift, officers can make anywhere from 0 to 20 traffic stops. All information on what happens there is documented, but nothing on camera. It’s a technology the Erie Police Department has been looking into for more than a year.
Erie Police Chief, Don Dacus, says there is a lot to consider. “We just want to get it right the first time. We don’t have the funding to get it wrong and scrap a very expensive program… we have 127 patrol officers alone, so to outfit all of them with body cameras is a great expense.”
Another reason for the hesitation; state law. The wiretap law of Pennsylvania had stated if a recording took place without a person’s knowledge an officer would lose their pension. Dacus says, “you could understand the reluctance when officers did not want to have anything to do with recording someone unintentionally. Thankfully, that change has been made and now law enforcement has the same ability that many states around us have. We are finally getting current with the times.”
Meantime, the Millcreek Police Department has been utilizing dash cam’s for more than three years. Captain Carter Mook of the Millcreek Police Department says, “it’s great for DUI enforcement because it can capture the violation and if you can position it in a way where you can see the field sobriety test that helps as well”.
Not only have these dash cam’s been helpful in many different scenarios, they also provide some accountability for the department; making sure the officers are doing what they are supposed to on the scene”. Carter tells us, “if you are transporting a prisoner and they make a claim down the road they were assaulted in some way, we have the evidence to either prove or disprove that claim”.
Corporal Lenox sees that benefit. “I think they are especially important when we are dealing with traffic stops. I think having dash cam’s could not only help the community but also the police officers while they are doing their jobs on a daily basis… I think the reality is we don’t hear enough of the positive and the good outcomes that are happening every day and not just in the Erie community but all across the nation”.