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City of Tonawanda police officers get equipped with body cameras

The City of Tonawanda Police Department is the latest to equip its officers with body cameras to record all their interactions with the public.

Each patrol officer and detective is now required to wear the camera – about the size of a deck of playing cards – during their eight-hour shifts and turn the unit on during every traffic stop or call for service, said Police Capt. Fredric F. Foels.

“In policing now, it’s something that’s time has come,” he said. “It’s a two-way street. It’ll protect the public and protect that police officer, too, if there’s an accusation, an allegation.”

Foels said the department’s 30 officers were immediately onboard with the initiative.

“We know day in and day out that our officers go out there and they do the right thing and they treat the public the right way,” he said. “There was no resistance on this.”

The cameras, made by Safety Vision, have an integrated microphone, two infrared illuminators and a 120-degree field of view, according to the manufacturer. The model, called Prima Facie, is the same one worn by Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and Orchard Park police, Foels said. Niagara Falls police also wear body cameras.

Foels said officers tried several models over the last two months and preferred the Prima Facie because of “ease of operation.” Officers pick up their designated camera from a charging/docking station at the beginning of their shift. When it’s returned eight hours later, the footage is uploaded to a secure server and stored for a year.

The cameras were purchased with $30,000 of criminal asset forfeiture money, Foels said before Tuesday’s Common Council meeting.

During Tuesday’s Council meeting, retiring City Court Judge Joseph J. Cassata and City Clerk Janice R. Bodie were honored for their years of service.

Bodie is a 30-year city employee who was appointed clerk in 1995.

Cassata served 23 years as city attorney and the last 20 years as judge. He is credited with creating the city’s specialized courts, including those focused on drugs, alcohol treatment, mental health and domestic violence.

“Twenty years ago, we had a part-time, sort of a rural kind of a court,” he said. “And in those 20 years, we have transformed that court from a part-time court to a full-service court.”