Bungled Body Cam Pilot Gets Do-Over

Markeshia Ricks Photo With the clocking ticking on chances for full reimbursement, the police department’s quest to outfit all cops with body cameras has stalled over a bureaucratic snafu.

Harp administration officials — with police officials notably absent — described that snafu Tuesday night to an unimpressed committee of the Board of Alders, which in response delayed a a vote on pursuing a grant for the cameras.

The police department has been moving toward outfitting every one of its more than 450 officers with a body camera. The progress has been methodical and deliberate — and in the eyes of some, slow —as nearby police departments like Hamden, Branford and even Yale University have body cameras in place, which help provide documentation of what really happens in controversial encounters with the public.

And now New Haven’s body camera program could be further delayed.

Almost two years ago, the New Haven department conducted a 90-day study of two body cameras with some 50 police officers who volunteered to participate. The department told the Board of Alders Public Safety Committee back in November that it had completed its trial, selected a camera, and was ready to shop, well in time to meet a June 30 deadline to receive full state reimbursement for the costs of the cameras.

At a City Hall hearing Tuesday night, Chief Administrator Officer Michael carter along with Emergency Operations Center Deputy Director Maggie Targrove and Controller Daryl Jones told that same committee that the department is redoing that pilot in part because some technology has changed, but mostly because the department failed to conduct a proper procurement process. It had not bid the cameras through a request for proposal (RFP) to select the camera that not only meets department needs but provides the best price.

The Harp administration found out about a month after that November presentation to alders about how those previously tested cameras were acquired. Interested companies allowed the department to test them for free. Once that was discovered, an RFP was issued in January, and a second test got underway. This time two companies—one of which was tested in the previous pilot—made the cut, and a second pilot has been ongoing since last week.

The new pilot involves only three police officers this time, one from each shift. Results are expected to be ready by April 28.

Targrove told alders that the body camera program is estimated to cost between $1.8 million and $2.2 million including equipment, storage and maintenance over the next five years. Storage is a big part of the cost.

Carter and crew were before the alders committee Tuesday evening to ask for the approval of an application from the department to the state Office of Policy and Management for $1.5 million for the program. If the alders don’t approve the request in time for the department to get its application in by June 30, reimbursement from the state drops from 100 percent to 50 percent.

They were hoping to get the committee alders to move the process forward while the pilot wraps up so that the application would still be in position to pass before the deadline. But alders, exacerbated by the bungled procurement and the lack of police representation Tuesday — acting Chief Anthony Campbell was out of town and no other chief showed up to represent the department in his stead — chose to hold the matter over to next month.

The Harp administration will have to return in May with the police chief or some other representative from the department in tow. That’s because the Public Safety Committee’s members said they want to hear the results of the new pilot along with a more detailed defense of how the city went from being ready to purchase body cameras to now being not nearly as close as alders felt they were led to believe.

Public Safety Committee Chairman Gerald Antunes told the administrators that he was disturbed by the lack of transparency in the process, particularly in light of what he characterized as a verbal “beating” that the committee took just weeks ago over the establishment of a civilian review board. He said body cameras are part of the transparency that is important to those who have advocated for a CRB.

“It feels like we’ve been sold this bill of goods,” he said. “It appears that the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing.”

Committee Vice Chairman Brian Wingate further pressed on the lack of representation from the police department that had months prior seemed to have all its ducks in a row as far as moving forward with finally getting cameras on every officer.

“It’s really hard to sit here tonight and act like everything is good with this process,” he said. “I am disheartened that everybody is not here. Someone from public safety should be sitting here.”

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posted by: budman on April 19, 2017  8:41am

So th union backed alders stall again the implementation of body cameras that both the administration and the residents of this city want, but the police union does not want.  It looks like this will be another case that they make a self serving decision, and not the one that is the people’s choice. We need to vote them out!

posted by: Real talk on April 19, 2017  9:33am

This is ridiculous.  This is why we need the CRB.  If Campbell cannot attend this meeting, then why isn’t someone from the pd represented? Did Campbell leave anybody in charge during his absence? With all of the police shootings around the U.S. whether valid or not, these cameras are an integral part of maintaining transparency within the NHPD.  Now because of this messup, is the city willing and able to foot the bill for the 1.8-2.2 million dollars for the cameras, or are they going to squash the body cameras?  I wouldn’t blame the city if they did not foot the bill, however due to the inherent incompentency of Campbell and the police department the residents will suffer.  A definite change is needed at the top of the pd chain!!!

posted by: anonymous on April 19, 2017  9:53am

How many summer youth jobs could be created for $2,200,000?

posted by: theoriginalLJ on April 19, 2017  7:24pm

Axon (formerly Taser) is offering a FREE One Year Trial offering of one Body Camera for every sworn officer, includes storage, training and support to every law enforcement agency in the country. Has the City looked at this offering?

https://www.axon.com/info/offer

posted by: Retired on April 19, 2017  8:28pm

1 Chief and 4 Assistant Chiefs and not one could represent the department on such a important matter , the new generation of policing has got to take things more seriously. I would like to hear the answer of why no one from the department was present. I f you want to be a Chief that bad , you do what it takes to represent at every meeting pertaining to public safety. The fact is neither one of them talk to each other and they want to make the other look bad. How about you just made the whole department look bad because of your incompetence. Farrell, Pastore and even Wearing would have been there or had a team of supervisors present.

posted by: The Rock on April 19, 2017  10:07pm

@retired:

I agree with you 100%.  Someone from the pd has to be at this hearing. This lack of leadership with the body cameras, the lack of sufficient discipline for NHPD officer Elliott, and being oblivious to a planned protest in the city of New Haven, continues to show the incompetence of Campbell. I understand that everyone makes mistakes, however his mistakes were based on insufficient knowledge of how to run a police department.

He has no backbone, does not have the respect of some NHPD administrators and officers, and no qualifications that would warrant him as Chief. Its unfortunate because Campbell should not be allowed to apply based on those qualifications, but the rules are being altered to allow him to apply. What is going on with the process? When will a new be chosen? Didn’t the Mayor give a deadline of the middle of April for a new Chief to be named? Now his inexperience is showing and will continue to show if and when he is named Chief.

posted by: southwest on April 20, 2017  9:03am

Hello you no what you got or had but you don’t no what you getting…qualifications is in the eyes of the beholder,meaning they write the rules for you to be qualified if they want you to be chief..Every Chief had the rules change for them to be chief..why evertime a person of color get permoted they have to be deemed unqualified but must I remaind you those are the same rules that got their counter parts promoted to chief or what ever promotion they got…funny how they were ok with the so call"qualification ” rules as long as it was one of there “likens” but as soon as you learn the rules to their game plans that they used for years to get promoted they have all these problems with it..just saying.. smdh ..as much as you think things have change as for as being fair and transparency it stays the same..kind of like “hidden racism ” that’s coming to light now since the tone in the country is saying it’s ok to revert back to your old habits of being bias ..and some of the younger officers who grew up with theirs families feeling the way they do now because old habits are hard to break when you came from that environment.. to make “Policing Transparency ” it’s a no brainer to get cam-corners for all then you can see their true color and intent…why it’s taking so long with this administration is beyond me…and why no NHPD Chiefs showed up or No NHPD or Union were there ..that answered is to make the Suppose new Chief look bad or this administration look incompetent..it’s the game of policing that’s played out all over the country…

posted by: 1644 on April 20, 2017  8:42pm

Why is this issue so hard?  Branford has had body cameras for many, many years.  They protect the cops as much as the public.  Branford bought them with town money, but got reimbursed by the state when the state came out with its program, post-Ferguson.  Overall, this issue seems just another example of utter incompetence in New Haven government.

posted by: tcc036 on April 28, 2017  12:39pm

As far as body cameras go, Taser is willing to give free body cams with every Taser purchased. I think this is a good idea. The moment a taser is deployed, the cameras automatically record. I’m not sure criminals want to be tasered, though. I’m sure the criminals will protest this.

I’d like to know how the city expects to pay for storage if they go to another company. Also, requesting records of incidents. Who keeps these records? How long are they kept for? Who clears FOI requests for the records? Who oversees someone’s right to privacy isn’t violated when a request is made. Imagine being an officer, turning on your body cam. You break down a door, and find a naked person on the floor? It’s recorded. Now imagine being the naked person? Do you want some stranger viewing you naked? People don’t think about these things.

Also, I love how some people are using this forum to fight a proxy war against Campbell. The man was seriously injured serving this city and all the keyboard jockies want to use this as the forum to go after him to further their own ambition. He has to operate the agency within the bylaws and GO’s of the department. If he doesn’t, it opens the city up to lawsuits. Stop politicizing it. Fighting a proxy war on here makes every look bad. Grow up.
Chief Campbell has the respect and esteem of most of the department. A few malcontents with their own ambition shouldn’t spoil it for everyone.