Lawmakers, Law Enforcement Unveil Body Camera Policy

DOVER – Law enforcement agencies across the state soon will have a uniform policy governing the use of body-worn cameras for officers.

Reps. Larry Mitchell and Sean Lynn and members of the law enforcement community unveiled a policy Wednesday that Delaware police departments that use or want to use body cameras would adopt. The eight-page policy includes procedures for when and how to use the cameras, storing data and restrictions on using the devices.

The policy is the result of months of meetings between the Delaware Police Chiefs’ Council, Office of the Attorney General and the Department of Safety and Homeland Security, as directed by House Concurrent Resolution 46. Lawmakers passed that resolution last year, asking the groups to “develop and adopt a uniform policy regarding the implementation of body-worn cameras for law-enforcement agencies.”

“In recent years, we have seen an increased call for law enforcement to wear body cameras, not just to protect the public, but the officers as well,” said Rep. Mitchell, D-Elsmere, a retired New Castle County Police officer. “Body-worn cameras help increase transparency and provide a record of encounters between officers and the public. While body cameras alone won’t address concerns, they can be very helpful.

“Our law enforcement community went through a very deliberative process to incorporate best practices in crafting a comprehensive policy that will give police departments consistency regarding the use of body cameras. Several police departments already are using the devices, and I hope they will adopt this policy to help govern how they should be used.”

Currently, seven police departments are using body-worn cameras: New Castle County Police Department, Ocean View Police Department, Middletown Police Department, Bethany Beach Police Department, Smyrna Police Department, Delaware State University Police Department and University of Delaware Police Department. Delaware State Police currently is going through a testing phase.

“The body-worn camera policy is the result of a collaborative effort by the Delaware Police Chiefs Council, the Attorney General’s Office, Department of Safety and Homeland Security, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Delaware State Police Troopers Association,” said Police Chiefs Council executive director Jeffrey Horvath. “The policy was unanimously approved by the members of the Delaware Police Chiefs Council and we believe this policy is good for both law enforcement and public that we serve.”

Under the policy, officers equipped with body-worn cameras would be instructed to activate the devices when an arrest or detention is likely; when the use of force is likely; or any other incident where the safety of people and property in Delaware is promoted. The policy spells out instances when the camera should not be used, such as encounters with undercover officers or confidential informants, and instances where a victim or witness could request the camera be turned off.

The policy also requires officers to document any reason why the camera feed was interrupted or terminated, or if the officer fails to activate the device.

“As more Delaware police agencies begin to deploy officers with body cameras, it’s extremely important that we have a uniform policy in place that can guide the use of this technology,” said Rep. Lynn, D-Dover, who co-sponsored HCR 46 in the House. “I believe we’ve struck a balance with this policy that is helpful and instructive to law enforcement and fair to the public.”

The Office of Defense Services also has reviewed the body-worn camera policy and did not raise any objections with the policy.

The Delaware Police Chiefs Council said it would distribute the policy to all agencies that currently use body cameras and any others that are considering implementing the devices and expects the policy would be adopted.

###

AttachmentSize
DPCC BWC Policy.pdf2.55 MB