Gettysburg to consider body cameras for police

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Aug 13, 2015 4:01 AM

Photo by Jeremy Long -- Lebanon Daily News

North Cornwall Township Patrolman John Houser displays one of the eight body cameras the North Cornwall Township Police Department has for its officers. The police department was the second in the state to use body-worn cameras.

(Gettysburg) -- Traffic stops by police may soon be recorded by body cameras in Gettysburg.

Gettysburg Police Chief Joe Dougherty says an anonymous donation would cover the $4,500 cost for the six cameras.

He views the investment as one way of restoring the public's trust in officers.

Officers would switch them on for any police interaction, like traffic stops, domestic responses, or 911 calls.

Dougherty says using the cameras is a win-win.

He says police officers and citizens will be more aware of their actions because they'll be on tape.

"I think it's a good idea for law enforcement to be transparent, especially with some of the things that are going on around us. I think it's a good move, the officers don't object to it, and I think that our citizens have a right to hold us to a professional level of performance," says Dougherty.

"The way things are going around the nation, it's very difficult sometimes for an officer to be able to prove what he did and didn't do, and I honestly think it's a win-win for both sides."

Borough council still needs to approve moving forward with the cameras.

The next meeeting is set for September 14th.

Dougerty estimates it would take at least a month to get the system set up.

He says the department's policy on body cameras will incorporate recommendations from both the International Chiefs of Police and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Video would be saved for 30 days - or longer if it's considered evidence.

Dougherty says the footage would be publicly available through a Right to Know request.

Studies have shown body cameras have cut down on citizen complaints, but it's not clear if it's because officers are better-behaved or if citizens know videos will show what really happened.

North Cornwall Township's police department has been using body cameras for two years, an experience a police lieutenant in the department has called positive.

Police Lieutenant Michael Conz says the cameras help keep both police and residents on their best behavior, and help when writing reports.

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