SEPTA Police Launch Body Camera Pilot Program

By Dustin Slaughter

SEPTA Police Chief Thomas J. Nestel III announced via Twitter this afternoon that his department has started a body worn camera (BWC) pilot program.

Nestel tells The Declaration that three transit officers will be wearing the gear, which is manufactured by Utah-based VidMic, for a trial period of 60 days.

Civil libertarians as well as law enforcement have recognized the benefits of using this technology. BWCs are lauded by police accountability groups as an important new tool to keep law enforcement in check; law enforcement sees the potential for cutting back on citizen complaints, false or otherwise. And some recent studies seem to indicate a definitive, immediate impact on police/community interactions.

Rialto, CA was the first police department to conduct a thorough BWC study. It found that use-of-force incidents plummeted by over 59%; citizens’ complaints dropped by 87.5%.

As with any new technology introduced to the realms of law enforcement, privacy, and civil rights, there are risks and complications however. While groups such as the ACLU lean towards supporting such initiatives, they also caution that without proper policies in place, such as under what circumstances officers would be allowed to stop recording, and whether proper privacy protections are implemented, the potential pitfalls could outweigh the benefits.

The ACLU’s five page report can be found below. VidMic’s body camera brochure can be found in our repository.

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