The confrontation that led to charges against and the resignation of a Saratoga County sheriff’s sergeant was videotaped by a witness, but in coming years, local police hope videos of their interactions with the public will be more commonplace.
All three local sheriff’s offices have been looking into buying video cameras that are worn on police officer uniforms as well as cameras for patrol car dashboards.
Washington and Warren counties sheriff’s offices have been testing different camera systems out in recent months as they move closer to widespread use of technology that has become less expensive and more prevalent.
Washington County Sheriff Jeff Murphy said his agency has been testing a variety of systems for several months, and plans to equip officers with cameras for better evidence and to protect officers and those with whom they come in contact.
“We’re definitely going to do something,” Murphy said. “It will probably be mostly body worn with a few cameras in cars.”
Murphy said body-worn cameras have the obvious advantage of accompanying an officer when he steps out of a vehicle and goes to the scene of a crime or other incident.
“When you walk into the house where a domestic has occurred, you get the whole thing,” Murphy said.
Body-worn systems are also much cheaper than car systems, with the personal cameras costing about $500 and car systems about $5,000. But the car systems can document the way the vehicle is being driven and whether the siren and/or lights were activated, Murphy said.
The systems have advanced to the point that they communicate with computer servers via Wi-Fi and automatically upload videos when officers are in range of the station, Murphy said.
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Warren County Sheriff Bud York said his department has looked at both in-car and officer-worn systems, and while there were concerns about the performance of older systems, the equipment seems to have been “perfected.”
“It is certainly something that would be a benefit to our people,” he said.
Money seized from drug dealers could be used to pay for the purchase, York said.
Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo said his agency is also evaluating its video camera options.
Glens Falls Police have a dashboard camera in one car, Detective Lt. Peter Casertino said. Older car camera systems proved problematic, he said.
Dash cams have been in use for years, but the technology has been perfected and become more affordable in recent years. Older systems had problems with weather conditions, low light conditions and the rigors of police work.
Saratoga Springs Police have used body cameras since May 2013, starting with five and progressing to 11, with six more on order, Assistant Police Chief John Catone said.
The program has worked well, and the department is exploring the purchase of dash cam systems as well, he said.
"We have had nothing but positive outcomes with the cameras," Catone said.