Senator wants to mandate PistolCam
The Associated Press
Related: PistolCam: Footage to go
ALBANY, N.Y. ― In a flash, a police officer draws a handgun from its holster. Less than two seconds later, a red laser and bright light shine at whatever is in the gun barrel’s path while a mini-camera records it all.
That’s how mini-cams on police handguns would work under a proposal gaining support in New York, which would be the first state in the nation to require the technology. State police were briefed on the technology and are reviewing it for a possible pilot program, said Michael Balboni, the state’s deputy secretary for public safety.
The device could create a critical visual and audio record of police shootings for use in court, said state Sen. Eric Adams, a Brooklyn Democrat and former police officer. He is drumming up support for testing the cameras with the state police SWAT squad.
Adams said recordings from the $695 cameras couldn’t be altered by a police officer and would quell many questions after controversial police shootings, like the deaths in New York City of Amadou Diallo in 1999 and Sean Bell in 2006.
“That’s definitely a new thing,” said Meredith Mays of the International Association of Chiefs of Police based in Virginia. She said police have known the technology existed, but no state has required it.
Some police departments have put cameras on Tasers in the last couple years, but there is no major national effort by police to seek or block gun cameras at the federal level, according to the National Association of Police Organizations, a major lobbyist.
“We believe the state of New York can lead the country,” said Adams, who retired after 21 years as a New York police officer. “There no longer can be a question mark that lingers after shootings.”
Adams, who was never involved in a shooting, said the lights on the 5-ounce camera could be turned off if they would expose the officer to danger in a dark area. But the camera and optional audio recorder would remain operating for up to 60 minutes.
He said the images would also help identify suspects who get away. He wants a pilot program that would allow testing by police at shooting ranges. That could lead to a law mandating the gun cameras, he said.
Adams knows many police won’t embrace the idea at first. There was no immediate comment from the police department and police officers union in New York City. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office said it will review any legislation that comes from Adams’ effort.
But in Albany, there is growing support.
Republican Sen. Dale Volker of Erie County, a former police officer who would be critical to passing the Democrat-backed bill, already sought funding for a pilot program. But that $300,000 request to test the technology in state police SWAT squads was cut in the budget this spring as part of efforts to close a deficit of about $5 billion.
“You have to understand, particularly in urban areas today, it is not like the old days when if someone was shot you went before a grand jury,” said Volker. Today, he said, an officer would also face intense media and community attention.
“It’s a different world,” he said. “It’s not even a matter of right and wrong a lot of times. It’s that people decide very often whatever you did was probably wrong.”
In the Democrat-led Assembly, Adams and his colleagues in the influential black, Hispanic and Asian caucus like the idea. The gun camera is made by Legend Technologies, based in the Adirondack mountains town of Keesville, N.Y.