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A Million Dollars in Mafia Money Used to Fund Body Cams for Westchester County Police

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A Million Dollars in Mafia Money Used to Fund Body Cams for Westchester County Police

December 20, 2018 - 18:41
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New York State Attorney General CAMS Program Will Bring Body-Worn Cameras to 13 Law Enforcement Agencies Across New York State

NEW YORK, NY -- The Westchester County Department of Public Safety will receive $61,209 for 150 body-worn cameras. Body-worn cameras will be used to help create the Westchester County Department of Public Safety’s body-worn camera program.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer said, “Westchester County is pleased to be awarded this grant for body cameras for the Westchester County Police Department. A body camera is an extra layer of protection for everyone. They verify important facts that can serve as documentation of what happens during encounters. I want to thank the New York State Attorney General for choosing Westchester County for this important allocation of resources.”

Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood announced that her office has awarded over $1 million to 13 local law enforcement agencies across New York State to create and expand body-worn camera programs.

Through the Attorney General’s CAMS (Capture an Account of a Material Situation) program – which was launched in July 2018 and is funded with money recovered from organized crime takedowns by the Attorney General’s office – local law enforcement agencies around the state will be able to purchase 959 body-worn cameras, 258 body-worn camera systems (which include cameras and other components, such as storage and/or accessories), and numerous body-worn camera accessories, such as docking stations and mount clips. Body-worn cameras create independent accounts of encounters between police and the public, increasing transparency and accountability and often providing critical evidence in investigations.

“Body-worn cameras help ensure increased accountability and transparency during law enforcement interactions,” said Attorney General Underwood. “Yet too often, local police departments don’t have the resources to buy them. By using funds recovered from our organized crime busts, we’re now able to equip local police departments across the state with body cameras — benefitting all New Yorkers as we work to ensure safe and fair communities.” 

In addition to funds provided through the CAMS program, local law-enforcement agencies applying for the grant are responsible for securing a 25% funding match. The match helps increase the scope of the overall body-worn camera program.

Other agencies receiving funding awards are as follows: 

The Albany County Sheriff's Office will receive $69,151 for 43 body-worn camera systems, six body-worn camera docking stations, and other body-worn camera accessories. Body-worn cameras will be used to help create the Albany County Sheriff's body-worn camera program.

The Amherst Police Department will receive $37,625 for 43 body-worn cameras. Body-worn cameras will help equip the entire patrol division.

The Buffalo Police Department will receive $150,000 for 300 body-worn cameras. Body-worn cameras will assist in the effort to equip all patrol officers.

The Monroe County Sheriff's Office will receive $59,694 for 30 body-worn camera systems and six body-worn camera docking stations. Body-worn cameras will be used to equip additional members of the road patrol division.

The Niagara Falls Police Department will receive $51,791 for 64 body-worn cameras and 9 body-worn camera docking stations. The new body-worn cameras will cover cameras in need of replacement.

The Rochester Police Department will receive $104,508.75 for 70 body-worn camera systems and 25 vehicle docking bases. Body-worn cameras will expand the existing program to units that include Crime Prevention, License Investigation, and more.

The Suffolk County Police Department will receive $44,085 for 24 body-worn camera systems and three body-worn camera docking stations. Body-worn cameras will be used during special events where significant interaction with the community is likely.

The Suffolk County Sheriff's Office will receive $69,484 for 116 body-worn cameras. Body-worn cameras will be used to help create the Suffolk County Sheriff's body-worn camera program.

The Syracuse Police Department will receive $148,603 for 91 body-worn camera systems. Body-worn cameras will equip additional patrol officers and command groups that have daily interactions with members of the community.

The Troy Police Department will receive $69,600 for 96 body-worn cameras. Body-worn cameras will be used to help create the Troy Police Department’s body-worn camera program and be rolled out to patrol officers first.

The Ulster County Sheriff's Office will receive $69,776 for 80 body-worn cameras. Body-worn cameras will be divided between jail and road patrol divisions.

The Utica Police Department will receive $67,890 for 110 body-worn cameras. Body-worn cameras will expand usage to the Criminal Investigative Division.

The Westchester County Department of Public Safety will receive $61,209 for 150 body-worn cameras. Body-worn cameras will be used to help create the Westchester County Department of Public Safety’s body-worn camera program.

In 2015, Executive Order No. 147 appointed the Attorney General as special prosecutor in incidents where a law enforcement officer causes the death of an unarmed civilian, or where there is a significant question as to whether the civilian was armed and dangerous. This led to the creation of the Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit (SIPU) within the Attorney General’s office.

In each instance where an investigation does not lead to a prosecution, SIPU has issued thorough public reports detailing the evidence collected and, where applicable, providing policy recommendations aimed at improving law enforcement practices. SIPU first recommended the creation and expansion of body-worn camera programs by local law enforcement agencies in a 2016 report concerning the death of Miguel Espinal. SIPU has repeated this recommendation in several reports issued thereafter.

As one SIPU report noted, “Indisputably, videotaped evidence would have greatly facilitated the investigation of this case.” The CAMS program builds on body-worn camera recommendations made in SIPU reports by providing local law enforcement agencies throughout New York State with the opportunity to obtain funding to create or expand a body-worn camera program.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said, “The men and women of the Suffolk County Police Department put their lives on the line every day to protect our residents. I thank New York State Attorney General Underwood for providing funding to the Department that will enable the purchase of additional body cameras to protect our officers, ensure accountability, and build upon the public trust.”

City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, “I want to thank Attorney General Barbara Underwood for the creation of this important program. It’s vital that we continue to foster relationships between police, the community and residents. This program will provide the needed resources to help assist with accountability and transparency.”

“Body worn cameras are making our streets safer and helping the Rochester Police Department strengthen the level of trust between our officers and the people they serve,” said Rochester Mayor Lovely A. Warren. “I want to thank Attorney General Underwood for recognizing the value of this critical tool with this important investment. Body worn cameras further our goals of bringing true community policing to Rochester, which helps us create more jobs, safer/more vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities for our citizens.”

City of Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said, “We expect our body-worn camera program to create significant benefits for our police officers and for the community, but we know it brings additional costs. This funding will help to keep the body-worn camera program operating and ensure our police department has the resources they need to do their jobs and to make our neighborhoods safer. We are appreciative of the Attorney General's support of our body-worn camera program.” 

“The grant funding announced today will make a significant impact, bringing in additional cameras to keep our residents and neighborhoods safe,” said City of Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster. “Thank you to the Attorney General’s Office for its continued investment in critical grant programs like these that support our officers and others statewide as they continue their mission to protect the people of Niagara Falls.”

City of Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri said, “The Utica Police Department was one of the first law enforcement agencies in New York State to implement body worn cameras. This policy has promoted transparency and accountability while enhancing community relations. I commend Attorney General Underwood for understanding the positive impact body worn cameras has made and for providing law enforcement the resources necessary to further pursue this worthy initiative.”

New York State Senator Timothy M. Kennedy said, “Across the country and here in the City of Buffalo, we have seen the benefits of body cameras in improving relationships and trust between the police and the public, helping to impartially reveal the truth and enhance accountability for all involved. The funding provided by the Attorney General's CAMS program is a great opportunity for the Buffalo Police Department to expand their current use of body cameras to include the entire City, improving upon the critically-important job they are already doing every day. I want to thank Attorney General Underwood, Mayor Byron Brown and the Buffalo Police Department for their continued commitment to ensuring our City remains safe.”  

“I would like to thank both State Attorney General Barbara Underwood for making these funds available and the Buffalo Police Department for the willingness to apply for body cameras. This technology will be used to protect both officers and the general public with a goal of reducing unnecessary force and improved transparency, accountability, trust and community relations,” said Assembly Majority Leader Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, D-141.

Assemblymember Bill Magnarelli said, “I thank Attorney General Underwood for this initiative and award. Body worn cameras, when used properly, promote trust and transparency between police and the community. They also provide important protection to our officers on duty. These funds will help the City of Syracuse to expand and further implement an effective camera program.”

Assemblymember Pamela Hunter said, “In addition to the benefits both the police and community see when effectively using body worn cameras, our law enforcement personnel can also use these as a tool to train new and existing officers in how to perform during difficult encounters with the public. I am grateful for the rollout of Attorney General Underwood’s initiative. Central New York and cities across New York State will benefit from this program.”

“This is a major victory for the police and our citizens,” said City of Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen. “I thank the Attorney General’s office for awarding the department this grant and I’m overjoyed that more body-worn cameras will soon be in use in our community.”

Town of Amherst Supervisor Brian Kulpa said, “I’d like to thank the Attorney General for selecting Amherst for funding for body cameras for the Amherst Police department. Body cameras worn by our officers will greatly enhance the existing program that has been in place in 2016. This will enable our Police force to continue to build community trust, create positive interactions with our residents, and reinforce lawful policing. It will also protect the officers’ ability to document law enforcement interactions with the public by capturing evidence of the actions, conditions, and statements of all parties involved during an incident.”

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon said, “The addition of body worn cameras are a logical progression of our police technology program. Our use of in car camera systems has aided in prosecutions and provided training opportunities. The introduction of body worn cameras will further enhance our ability to serve the community.”

“We value the relationship between our officers and the residents of Suffolk County, and are happy to be a partner in the CAMS Program. This latest initiative led by the Attorney General’s office not only provides another tool to keeping our officers safe, but adds another level of transparency and trust with our communities,” said Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart.

“The Buffalo Police Department is thankful to the New York State Attorney General's Office for this generous grant towards our body worn camera program,” said Commissioner Byron Lockwood of the Buffalo Police Department. “These funds will help us launch our camera program after the first of the year. It is our goal to equip every patrol officer with a camera and to continue to build upon and strengthen the relationships we have with our community.”

Albany County Sheriff Craig D. Apple, Sr. said, “The Albany County Sheriff’s Office is very fortunate to be a recipient of funding from the New York State Attorney General’s Office through their CAMS Program. This funding will allow our agency to develop a policy which parallels our present In-Car Cameras system, purchase body cameras, train our members and deploy the cameras in the field. With the deployment of this new program we will be able to utilize this new tool to expand our abilities to memorialize events and thus enhance our capabilities to provide valuable information to prosecutors. I would like to thank New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood for giving us this opportunity.”

Ulster County Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum said, “The use of Body Worn Cameras (BWC) is an effective tool that the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office has deployed to demonstrate our commitment to transparency and accountability, increase the public trust, provide valuable evidence for prosecution, and protect our members from unjustified claims of misconduct. However, this program creates a great financial burden. The Office of the New York State Attorney General has awarded our agency approximately $70,000 of monetary aid to help offset the cost of this valuable technology. We value this continued support from the Attorney General and our state law enforcement partners.” 

Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter said, “The Monroe County Sheriff's Office has been awarded a CAMS (Capture an Account of a Material Situation) Program grant award in the amount of $59,694 from the New York State Attorney General's Office. This award will provide much needed funding for the Sheriff's Office to purchase up to 30 additional body cameras for use by members of the Sheriff's Office Police Bureau. These additional cameras will allow the Sheriff's Office to continue to build trust and foster transparency, which is the foundation of building positive relationships between law enforcement and the communities which they serve and protect. The Monroe County Sheriff's Office looks forward to working with the NYS Attorney General's Office to implement this CAMS Program.”

Amherst Police Department Chief John C Askey said, “Thank you to New York  State Attorney General Barbara Underwood and her staff  for awarding the Amherst Police Department $37,625 in their CAMS (Capture an Account of a Material Situation) police body camera program. Funds provided will be used to purchase additional body worn cameras for the Patrol Division, augmenting our existing program, in place from 2016. In our experience body worn cameras have proven valuable tools for transparency and accountability.”

Rochester Police Department Chief Mark Simmons said, “I would like to thank the New York Attorney General’s Office for their consideration of our grant application and decision to award the Rochester Police Department (RPD) $104,508.75 as part of the CAMS program. The allotment will allow the RPD the ability to expand our body-worn camera program while enhancing our department’s capabilities to further aid our officers in providing the highest level of service to the citizens of Rochester.”

Troy Police Department Chief Brian Owens said, “The Troy Police Department has worked tirelessly with stakeholders from the police department, city administration and community leaders regarding the implementation of a police body worn camera program. The availability of a Body Cam grant from the NYS Attorney General’s Office was seen as a way to help us jump start our program. Having been chosen as an awardee is not only helpful financially, but also shows a sense of ideological support from the NYS AG in the department’s efforts to have a successful program. The Troy Police Department is thankful for the award.”

Syracuse Police Department Chief Kenton Buckner said, “Body-worn cameras are shown to reduce cases of excessive force and cut down on claims by citizens, provide protection to both the police and members of the community, and we hope they will increase trust and transparency between officers and residents. As we progress through the trial-period of our expanded pilot program, we are tracking what resources are necessary to create a long-term, sustainable program. We are thankful for this support which will work together with other funding sources to fulfill those demands.”

Niagara Falls Police Department Chief Bryan DalPorto said, “The Niagara Falls Police Department is honored to partner with New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood to strengthen its body camera initiative for police officers. When officers wear body cameras, it improves accountability and transparency, and builds trust between the police and the public.”