B y Dan King

Whitehall police officers will soon be testing body cameras during their interactions with the public.

“The sergeant has come up with a policy for a demo body camera,” said trustee Ken Bartholomew, police commissioner. “It’s mostly the same policy as the Sheriff’s Department.”

Washington County Sheriff’s Department’s policy on body cameras, which is being closely replicated by Sgt. Dick LaChapelle for Whitehall, requires that officers have their camera on during all interactions with the public.

That policy is something that many feel benefits both civilians and the officers, especially iCandidate pic Ken Bartholomewf officers are responding to a “hot call,” where they might need to corroborate a story of what occurred.

“If the officer has his body cam active whenever he interacts with the public in any way and everyone is aware of that fact, that fact alone could sometimes be enough to defuse a situation that otherwise could escalate,” Bartholomew said in an email. “In any event whatever occurs would be on record. That’s a good thing.”

Bartholomew said that the body cameras and its policy will benefit all interested parties.

“Getting the cameras would be for the protection of all concerned: the public, the officer and the village,” Bartholomew added.

Those not affiliated with the police also said the policy would be beneficial.

Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst for the American Civil Liberties Union, said police body cameras “with the right policies in place (are) a win for all.”

Stanley said he felt a policy for body cameras should not allow officers to turn them on and off as they please, because if that is allowed, “the cameras’ role in providing a check and balance against police power will shrink and they will no longer become a net benefit.”

As Bartholomew said, the cameras will required to be on during all interactions between the officer and the public, thus providing insight into any police/civilian interactions.

Bartholomew was adamant about the department getting the cameras.

“We’re going to get some body cameras for our guys, because we’ve got to have them,” he said at a village board meeting last week.

Bartholomew said that after a test run with the cameras, officials will decide whether to purchase the model they are demonstrating or find some other police body camera.

“The demo period could result in issues we have not considered,” he said. “Real-time use in the field will be informative and then a decision will be made.”

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