UCLM Works with Rochester Police to Develop Body Worn Camera Program

Full 2018 report available for download here.


Background

Body-worn cameras (BWC) are being implemented in police forces nationwide. In many cases their use has resulted in better police-community relations through reductions in police uses of force, de-escalation of police-citizen encounters, and fewer citizen complaints about police.

In the summer of 2016, in response to longstanding community demand led by UCLM and others, the City of Rochester began to implement a police BWC program.

In November, 2017, the City of Rochester formalized a process for ongoing community input into the BWC program by signing a Memorandum of Understanding with UCLM’s subgroup, the Coalition for Police Reform (CPR). This MOU established regular meetings between CPR and the Rochester Police Department (RPD), as well as making other commitments of cooperation between the City, RPD, and UCLM.

A CPR subcommittee, the Community Justice Advisory Board (CJAB), was formed for this purpose and has been meeting quarterly with RPD since January, 2018. CJAB is pleased with the good working relationship, teamwork, and transparency that our partnership with RPD and the City partnership has achieved.

UCLM’s Findings in 2018

CJAB has released its full report, which you can download and read here. Below is a brief summary of its findings.

RPD gets generally high marks from CJAB for its BWC policy. We applaud the transparency of the process, general clarity of the guidelines, attention to privacy concerns, overall policies for storage of recorded footage, and guidelines for release of footage to the public.

Areas in which we continue to seek policy improvement include:

  • Removing BWCs from schools until school-specific BWC policy has been developed with input from community stakeholders, especially parents and PTAs. THIS IS A PRIORITY FOR CJAB AND FOR THE COMMUNITY.

  • Changing BWC policy guidelines to require that officers submit their initial written report on an incident prior to viewing related BWC footage

  • Clarification of RPD policy’s “safe and practical” guidelines for BWC activation

  • Immediate deletion of BWC footage recorded in error

  • Assurance that the City’s response to Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests complies with written BWC policy and with state FOIL law

  • In view of upcoming RPD enhancements in image collection and data management, formulation – with community input - of a policy regarding biometric screening of footage

Because BWCs are a relatively new development in policing, and because our City needs to contribute its information to the national exploration of best practices for BWC use, it is important to make sure that comprehensive data are collected about Rochester’s BWC program. RPD is in the process of developing an improved data management system, expected to be in place by the 3rd quarter of 2019. We have been told by RPD that the new system will be capable of accommodating the data that CJAB requests.

We advise that the following to be included in the new BWC system:

  • Details on camera functionality

  • Additional details on whether camera use is in accordance with written policy, enabling specific pinpointing of any problem areas. Of particular interest and relevance are:

    • Demographics of both civilians and police involved in police encounters

    • Statistics about BWC use during arrests and during police uses of force

    • Statistics about availability of BWC footage for complaints of misconduct that are filed

  • Details on City response to FOIL requests

  • Details on how the presence of BWC footage may affect the resolution of various kinds of misconduct complaints

  • General surveys of police officers, police administrators, community, and other stakeholders with respect to their perceptions of BWCs and their view of police-community relations in general.

In Conclusion:

RPD’s implementation of BWCs is off to a strong start, with generally favorable ratings from police and the community. We are optimistic that, with continued experience with BWCs plus evidence-based program improvements, we will also begin seeing the results seen in many other communities: reductions in police use of force, de-escalation of police-civilian encounters, and fewer civilian complaints.

CJAB looks forward to continued partnership with the Rochester Police Department and the City of Rochester. We will work assiduously toward the goal of a successful BWC program and positive community-police relationships.

For a timeline of police relations leading to BWC in Rochester, the history of BWC, and a full evaluation of Rochester’s BWC program read the full report:

Open Full 2018 Report

page last updated: June 27, 2019