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Some policies still not clear with Syracuse's police body camera program

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media File Photo
The Axon Body 2 camera, which will be outfitted on the Syracuse Police Department.

The Syracuse Police Department is going from 16 to 100 body cameras for its uniformed officers. But some of the policies related to body cameras remain unclear.

Officer Daniel Flanagan said when he was first hired on, a year and a half ago, he anticipated having to wear a body camera.

“I guess that’s why I would say it would be beneficial to me, because if someone may not take what my word is as the truth, they may be able to get a different perspective on what my body camera is able to portray,” Flanagan said.

Detective Mark Rusin gave an overview of the program to the public on Thursday, explaining how the body cameras work, when they will be on, and where the data is stored. But those in the audience questioned when police are exempt from using the cameras, the extent to which footage is retained and redacted, and whether police should view the footage before writing a report.

Theresa Rocha Beardall, a PhD candidate in sociology at Cornell University, said she wants more clarification and a written guideline on some of those policies.

"It's really great to have these conversations a couple of years before a launch of body cameras," Rocha Beardall said. "But if the goal is to have them on the streets this summer, which is in a few weeks, this is a really irresponsible way to engage the public."

Raynette Releford, administrator for the Citizen Review Board, which investigates complaints against police, said she will push for access to the footage. Currently, the CRB can only view footage if it was included in a report by the Office of Professional Standards, the police’s internal affairs.

“It would be beneficial to our investigation at the initial stages and then thereafter when we’re having a hearing and then the hearing panel can review it," Releford said. "But definitely at the initial stage, it’s very important.”

The department is still developing its policies before they implement the new cameras this summer or fall.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.