I-TEAM: How many police departments don’t have body cameras, dash cams despite state mandate? It’s unclear.

How many police departments don't have body cameras, dash cams despite state mandate?
Published: Apr. 6, 2023 at 7:03 PM EDT
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(WFSB) - New information in the I-Team investigation into a deadly crash involving a Vernon Police cruiser.

The I-Team was the first to report that Vernon Police cruisers do not have dash cameras, despite a state mandate requiring them to.

We wanted to know if Vernon was the only department, turns out, it’s unclear.

Surveillance video captured Sunday night’s crash between a police cruiser and Nissan Sentra that killed 26 year old Bianca Colon.

When asked if there was any dash cam video, Vernon Police said their cruisers did not have cameras.

But the Police Accountability Law signed in 2020 said all departments were required to have both body cameras and dash cams by July 1st, 2022.

State Senator Gary Winfield played a big part in the legislation and has a message for police departments.

“You got to get yourself to the space where you’re actually complying with the law. Sooner or later, something can happen,” Senator Winfield.

A spokesperson for the Town of Vernon says the department has been working to identify funding and vendors for the cameras, since February of last year, and the cameras should be here in about two weeks.

In 2016 the state began funding a program that reimburses police departments for body camera, dash cam and video storage related expenses.

$4 million dollars was also immediately put aside following the 2020 accountability bill.

Departments go through the state, the Office of Policy and Management, to access that money.

“Today, over half a million dollars in funding was approved by the bond commission to support department’s efforts,” says Marc Pelka, Office of Policy and Management.

According to program records, Vernon Police received more than $25,000 in funding in 2017. A spokesperson says that was used for body cameras.

Currently the program reimburses between 30-50% of costs. In 2018, Senator Winfield said it was 100% reimbursement.

He says he hopes other departments pay attention and apply.

“There’s no excuse for any police department at this point to be saying we didn’t know, there wasn’t money, none of that is true,” says Senator Winfield.

The problem is, we don’t know if other departments are in similar situations.

While the Police Officer Standards and Training Council says they do check for cameras during the accreditation compliance review, those reviews are done every few years.

It’s unclear if anyone checked all departments for compliance following the July 2022 deadline.

“There is not an agency I’m aware of that’s provided statewide oversight of compliance. We have asked for that information before,” says Pelka.

Senator Winfield plans to ask for a state agency to track this during the next legislative session.

The Town of Vernon is using American Rescue Plan money for the cameras, but plans to look at the reimbursement and other grant opportunities.

Who is in charge of cruiser dashcam mandate?