Turning on their body cameras as soon as there is interaction with the public has become second nature to Orange police officers who were outfitted with the technology about a year and a half ago. Though wearing body cameras are becoming standard practice in departments throughout the country, Orange actually implemented its program before larger area departments like New Haven and Bridgeport.
Rather than revealing any issues within the department or pinpointing procedures that could be done better, Orange Police Chief Robert Gagne is finding the cameras highlight everything the department is doing so well. “Our department has historically been a transparent department and we treat people with respect,” Gagne said. “We’ve always had a very low number of civilian complaints, lawsuits or use of force issues, so we didn’t delve into this to address a problem but rather to be even more transparent than we already are. Our officers have been using dash cams for years so this basically took that program and extended it to everything the officer is doing ― not just from car point of view but from the officer’s point of view. “What Gagne has discovered, and studies support, is that generally everyone behaves better when they know they are being filmed. “And if that protects our officers, that’s great,” Gagne said. Officers receive training on body cam protocol and attend retraining each year.
The Department received a reimbursement grant from the state to purchase the 50 body cameras, docking stations and computer storage. The town laid out the initial $52,289.22 investment which was recently repaid to town coffers.
The body cams are only activated at the point when officers interact with the public on a call and department protocol dictates instances privacy and turning off the cams is called for ― like when police are interacting with a sexual assault victim, or any medical or psychological treatments, evaluations or procedures. They are also turned off when officers enter a hospital or medical/mental health facility, and when in conversation with other law enforcement. When cameras are deactivated, the reasons must be documented and are subject to supervisory review. Taped footage is reviewed regularly for training purposes and is also used routinely as evidence, particularly in drunken driving arrests and motor vehicle accidents.
According to Assistant Chief Max Martins, after the initial learning curve, the body cams were quickly adapted by officers as police procedure. “There was a recent incident where an officer was chasing someone on foot and instinctively turned the camera on before his radio,” Martins said.
Pictured: Police Officer Denny Peterson is pictured in front of Police Department flag wearing his body cam.
By Laura Fantarella – Orange Town News Correspondent