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More Syracuse police officers to be equipped with body cameras

Ellen Abbott
A state grant will pay for more than 100 body cameras for Syracuse police officers

The number of police officers in the city of Syracuse that wear body cameras will jump significantly by the end of the year, thanks to a $300,000 state grant. 

The extent of the SPD’s experience with body cameras to date has been 16, used in a pilot program. That all changes this fall, when training starts for dozens of police officers on how to use the technology.

"We have 110 of them, we’re going to outfit 90 officers with them. We’re going to leave 20 in reserve,” said Syracuse Deputy Police Chief Joe Cecile. 

Cecile said training will happen in waves. 15 uniformed officers from the patrol division will be trained at a time, with 90 cameras in place by the end of the year.  

“Keep in mind these are all officers from the patrol division, uniformed officers, 30 from the day shift, 30 from the afternoon shift, 30 from the midnight shift, “ he said. “By the end of the year, we’ll all be outfitted with these body cams.”

The square, black cameras are light. They weigh about the size of two decks of cards, and contain a digital video recorder with a wide angle lens. Cecile hopes Syracuse has the same results as other police departments across the country that have adopted the technology.

“Reduced complaints against officers, and reduced use of forces. Those are two huge pluses for us,” said Cecile. 

Video will be stored in the cloud at a secure website operated by the camera's manufacturer.

The city continues to fine tune a formal policy for using the cameras, and the ultimate goal is to have cameras on all officers that hit the streets. The current grant pays for the initial implementation of the program.

Twiggy Billue, president of the Syracuse Chapter of the National Action Network says this is a good start toward improving community police relations.

“We’re together on some issues but not all issues.  And truly the only way to being together is to be transparent.  Let us know what’s going on and we let you know what’s going on.  If you trust us, we’ll trust you. And this is going to build back some of the trust that the people have lost within the community as well as the police department.”

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.