The Raleigh-Apex branch of the NAACP supported Garner police as they applied recently for a grant that would help purchase body-worn cameras for officers.
More recently, the group offered to co-host a community meeting on Friday, April 7, to let people share their thoughts on the use of the technology. The meeting is set for 7 p.m. at Shalom Christian Community Church, 309 Holman Drive, Garner.
Police held similar meetings for the public at the police station on March 22. They plan to use feedback from all three meetings to help them draft a body-worn-camera policy to take before the Town Council on April 25.
“We’re not doing this just to say we did it,” said Garner Chief Brandon Zuidema. “It could absolutely influence that policy. If (people) have specific thoughts regarding privacy issues and protection, we want to hear that. We want to hear what they think generally about body-worn cameras, and we just want to meet with and hear from the community, generally, because we’re better served by having a well-educated and informed community.”
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The department tested body-worn cameras in 2015 but does not currently use the devices.
The Governor’s Crime Commission provided funding last fall to help Garner police start a camera program. The department is now waiting to see if it will receive a federal grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance.
“If we receive that, it would help us complete, or close to complete, the implementation of a body-worn-camera program for all sworn officers,” Zuidema said.
That means all 65 officers at the station – the chief included – although not all officers would necessarily use them every day.
“If they’re talking to a victim or a witness, and they don’t want to be recorded, the officer needs to determine the importance of that statement,” Zuidema said.
The policy being drafted is intended to ensure the department is complying with the state statute on body-worn cameras.
That statute largely spells out rules on disclosure or release of the recordings and deals less with where and in what situations officers should or should not use cameras.
“We need that community input, because we need to tell our officers where they need to wear the camera on their uniform, when and where they need to turn it on and where they can’t turn it on,” Zuidema said. “It’s privacy issues and other issues related to officer safety and identifying confidential informants, those sort of situations.”
For more information on the upcoming meeting, call Tracey Hamilton at 919-772-8810, Ext. 5154.