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Police body cameras heading to Pennsylvania - abc27 WHTM

Police body cameras heading to Pennsylvania

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

Many police departments already record video from their patrol cars. In Pennsylvania, they'll soon be able to wear body cameras too. Governor Corbett recently signed Senate Bill 57; in part it allows local police officers to have cameras on their bodies.

"I think police officers should be able to wear them because they are out there on the streets," said Deb Neifert of Harrisburg.

Felicia Givens of Susquehanna Township agrees: "I think it's great in a way, as long as you are not doing anything illegal. But the ones that are out there doing illegal stuff, they need to watch out," said Givens.

But being watched and recorded was a no-go for AJ Briley of Harrisburg. "It's a personalized encounter that should be restricted due to privacy," said Briley.

"This is one of those weird issues; we are opposed to how it's written, but we could be supportive because we think it's a really good thing. It provides accountability for officers and the public," said Andy Hoover with the American Civil Liberties Union Pennsylvania.

"The problem is the legislature had a chance to write a really good bill and they failed. They put the majority of the power in the hands of police. It would be better if they had required police to keep cameras on at all times when they are interacting with the public. As it's written, it's completely silent," said Hoover.

The officer would have to make you aware you are being recorded and could not record, let's say, in your home. Still, the ACLU is concerned with how the data is collected and stored, as well as the fact the video could connect the dots of patterns where people spend their time.

Hoover says presumably there would be good police department supervision. "But police department policies are written in the dark. It's not like city council or state legislature where laws are passed in the open," said Hoover.

Former Susquehanna Township Police Chief now Director of Public Safety Robert Martin says the township will look at a law enforcement study on the issue before developing a plan.

"I think I would share their concerns," he said. "We are going to have to be careful as law enforcement to write the policies properly. There would be a lot of policy development. How we are using them? When we are using them? There are a lot of questions that need to be answered from law enforcement," said Martin.

As for cost, Martin said body cameras are cheaper: Mobile units cost between $3,000 and $5,000 per car. A body cam? About $150 an officer.

It could take 6 to 12 months before you see them on the streets. Departments must buy the system from a state-approved list of sellers.

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