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Student Body Reacts to UPD Body Cameras With Enthusiasm, Uncertainty

By Diana Gilday

A UPD officer wearing a newly issued body camera. (Photo by Diana Gilday)

The University Police Department (UPD) is now requiring all officers to wear body cameras.

Since Aug. 31, UPD has been wearing small recording devices, with both video and audio capabilities, on their uniforms, for all of the public to see.

In a poll conducted on the Purchase Open Forum, students were asked if they were in favor of the body cameras. Out of 76 total votes, 79 percent of students were in favor, 18 percent were on the fence, and 3% were against.

“It's necessary in today's society, but they should not be able to turn the cams off,” said student Lin Caffoe.

Another student, Patrick Kelly, also voiced his opinion on the cameras,

“My issue with most solutions proposed to keep cops in check seem so easily manipulatable by said cops,” Kelly said.

Overall, a majority of the student body agrees that body cameras will be an improvement to safety on Purchase’s campus, but there are some concerns about the use of the cameras.

In an interview with UPD Chief Dayton Tucker and the main administrator of the cameras, Lieutenant Donelle Charles, many of students concerns were addressed. The first of which being how the footage will be accessed.

According to Lieutenant Charles, the footage can be accessed after 30 days and there are two ways of going about it. If the footage is from a crime, it must be requested through the District Attorney's office and if it is from anywhere else, a student would have to make a claim through FOIL, the freedom of information law.

Another concern that many students had was if the footage could be edited or manipulated in anyway. According to Chief Tucker, the footage will not be tampered with unless something, for example an address, needs to be edited out for either public or police safety. The camera’s are equipped with anti-tampering footage and only two people in the department have any access to the footage.

As of 2019, many college campuses across America are requiring their officers to wear cameras. This is in response to a nationwide outcry over numerous incidents of police brutality. There are many reasons for wearing body cameras. These include: increased safety for both the public and officers, improvements in accountability of police officers, and the cameras serve as a training tool for the department.

On the other hand, body cameras can be seen as an invasion of privacy, while also putting witnesses and victims at an increased risk. UPD, according to Chief Dayton Tucker, weighed both the pros and cons when deciding on using the cameras.

An email sent out by the University Police Department provided the student body with information regarding the cameras including, most importantly, what will be recorded. The cameras will not be recording all the time, only when a situation meets specific guidelines.

For a situation to be recorded, it must meet one or more of the following criteria: any and all uses of force, arrests and summons, interactions with suspects to criminal activity, searches of both people and property, any call to a crime that is already in progress, and interactions with emotionally disturbed individuals.

The email also stated that the officers are responsible for disclosing when they will be recording and all events must be recorded from start to finish.

Overall, Chief Tucker believes that the body cameras are a good addition to the department. “People will see them and want to act better,” Tucker said. “It will be easier to address complaints from the public and increase the accountability level of the force.”



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