Police body cameras are coming to Buffalo – at least on a limited basis, for now.
The Common Council is expected to approve Tuesday a pilot program that is the first step toward equipping all 500 patrol officers in the Buffalo Police Department with body cameras.
The pilot program will involve 20 to 30 patrol officers in the B District, which is mostly the downtown area and includes the waterfront and the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park, said Niagara Council Member David A. Rivera, chairman of the Council’s Police Oversight Committee.
Police officials chose to outfit patrol officers with the equipment at the suggestion of the Oversight Committee because patrol officers are usually the first-responders who interact with the public the most.
“We want the patrol division to use them because they’re mostly in contact with the general public,” said Rivera, a retired Buffalo police officer.
The officers would use the equipment in shifts that roughly cover the time period from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. That way, the city will be able to obtain both daytime and nighttime footage, officials said.
Other details, like when the pilot project will begin or the costs associated with it, were not immediately available Monday.
But what is known is that equipping the entire patrol division, storing all of their video, hiring people to administer the program and maintain the equipment software will likely cost the city millions.
Just to outfit all 500 patrol officers in the Police Department with the cameras could cost as much as $500,000, according to police officials.
The department selected a company called Vievu for the project through a selection process that began last January with a request for proposals by March 3, according to documents Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda filed with the Council. Fourteen companies, including Vievu, submitted proposals to take part in the pilot program.
A review committee that included members of the Police Department and other city departments discussed the proposals and identified five companies as having the size, skill and ability to perform the service, according to Derenda. Those five were brought in for discussion and further evaluation, and in the end, Vievu was chosen as the company that will best meet the needs of the Police Department and the City of Buffalo, according to Derenda.
Last September, The Buffalo News reviewed a draft policy that police officials came up with that was modeled on national best practices. At the time, Lt. Jeffrey D. Rinaldo, who is in charge of special projects for the Police Department, said he expects the policy to be amended as patrol officers start using the equipment. Some police officers are wary about cameras, he added, but with so many people carrying smartphones capable of recording video and even broadcasting footage in real time, police administrators believe that the body cameras would provide an objective record of an incident.