Justice for All: Despite nationwide body cam adoptions, Nassau and Suffolk still awaiting full rollout
Body-worn cameras are commonplace in most large police departments across the country.
However, the Nassau and Suffolk police departments remain two of just three of the nation’s largest departments where officers aren’t equipped with the recording technology.
Currently, only ten officers in the Suffolk Police Department have body-worn cameras. It’s a department of more than 2,400 sworn members.
In Nassau County, not a single officer has a body camera. It’s a department of approximately 2,500 sworn members.
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Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced last week that a body camera vendor has been chosen after a nearly yearlong search. Curran said 2,500 cameras will be purchased from “a well-qualified vendor, based here on Long Island, called Island Tech Services.” The company is located in Ronkonkoma.
Both Nassau and Suffolk recently passed state-mandated police reform plans. Both include the promise to implement body cameras, although a definitive start date of camera use by Nassau and Suffolk officers is not written in the reform plans.
Last week, News 12 Long Island asked Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder if there is a date when all officers on patrol will be wearing body-worn cameras.
“So the county exec gave a directive that by September, we will have one of our precincts up and running,” said Ryder. “You can't flood the system with it right away.”
Ryder added “by the end of the year, they will all be wearing a body camera.”
Suffolk officials say they have not yet chosen a vendor. Vanessa Baird-Streeter, the co-chair of the Suffolk County Police Reform & Reinvention Task Force, pledged that the body camera program will begin to roll out in October.
When asked when body cameras will become part of day-to-day operations, Baird-Streeter said, “I think, that's going to depend on the apparatus you get, the data storage that's associated with that.”
According to Baird-Streeter, union negotiations must be completed before the cameras are ultimately rolled out.
“Yes, so, it's a collective bargaining negotiation,” said Baird-Streeter. “It's an issue of ensuring that we get the right apparatus, and we can negotiate the correct amount that's associated with wearing the body cameras.”
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran also says officers will be paid to wear the body cameras.
“We are working with the unions, we're having very good conversations, and we're talking about $3,000,” said Curran. That would be $3,000 dollars annually for each of the nearly 2,500 officers. A total cost of $7.5 million a year.
Not everyone is in favor of paying officers to wear the cameras.
“They should not be paying them more,” said Shanequa Levin of LI United to Transform Policing and Community Safety. “You do not pay someone more money to wear their uniform.”
Levin adds, “it doesn't surprise me that we don't have body cameras because Nassau and Suffolk like to pretend that nothing's going wrong here.”
Following County Executive Curran's announcement about a body cam vendor, Nassau County PBA President James McDermott issued the following statement:
“Body cameras serve to protect police officers and the public alike. Nassau Police Officers do not oppose wearing the apparatus, if this conclusion is reached through contractually obligated negotiations between the County and the Nassau County PBA. The top priority of this union is to defend the rights of our officers. Nassau County Police Officers are among the finest law enforcement officers in the nation, and have earned the respect of Nassau residents for the sacrifices made and professionalism displayed while on duty.”
Text and reporting by Eileen Lehpamer