With a grant from the state's Division of Criminal Justice Services, Batavia PD will be able to outfit all officers with body cameras, Chief Shawn Heubusch told the City Council on Monday night.
In all, the $10,000 grant combined with funds already appropriated in the city budget will mean the department has a total of 32 body cameras.
"They're absolutely valuable," Heubusch said after the meeting. "I wouldn't be asking for 32 of them if I didn't think they were valuable. As far as from a prosecutorial standpoint, it collects evidence and firsthand accounts when this story is unfolding. So from that perspective, it helps in the prosecution aspect of a crime. When you're dealing with a victim or a suspect you have that person on film saying what they said, acting the way that they were acting at that point in time, and that could be introduced into evidence or it can be used to get a plea deal."
Twice the cameras have helped clear up accusations against officers by suspects, Heubusch said, so they've proven valuable in that respect as well.
"I think we see a lot more positive reaction (from officers) because they were very suspicious at first," Heubusch said. "They wanted to know, 'what are we getting ourselves into?' But the first time that they're dealing with the drunk alongside the road and they're able to go back and review that footage and see this is exactly what this person said, this is exactly how the person acted, and then present that in court, they see it's been very beneficial, or in the instance where somebody comes forward with a false claim against them."
Officers are supposed to activate the camera anytime they are responding to a "hot" call, Heubusch said. The camera should be on anytime there is an enforcement action.
Of course, Heubusch said, officers are human and in an active situation, turning on a body camera is not always the first thing that comes to mind.
"That's the first thing you forget to do is turn that on," Heubusch said. "In most cases that is the first thing you want to see, you want to see that turned on. So we understand there's a human element as well. So you know there is enough room within the policy to give the officers some individual leeway."
Officers also have the discretion to turn the camera off in situations where privacy is paramount, such as cases involving juveniles, especially as victims, confidential informants, or sensitive domestic calls, depending on the circumstances.