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Altoona Mirror (Newspaper) - June 8, 2015, Altoona, Pennsylvania
Monday june 8,2015 local Altoona Mirror a Page a3 cameras privacy Laws an Issue continued from Page Al with a tiny movable Lens it can be attached to an officers shoulder straps shirt front or Waist. A if a Guy has this on at a crime scene he could be documenting evidence he a not even aware of at the time a Sigler said. Many police officers see them in the same Way a As an investigative tool. An officer responding at a crime scene or breaking up a fight can record the situation in High definition providing evidence for later prosecution. Its a Benefit patrol car dashboard cameras have Long provided albeit Only in a limited line of sight near police vehicles. A we use them in trial All the time a Bedford county District attorney Bill Higgins said of die car cameras. Higgins and Sigler both cited Drunken driving cases As common examples. Those who drive under the influence will later argue they were coherent Higgins said but footage of the Driver stumbling or falling can quickly Force a guilty plea. Body cameras could do the same but in cases that take place far from a patrol car. Since Higgins provided the funds for Bedford to buy cameras for its to full and part time officers other departments have taken up similar offers. The Saxton police recently ordered a set he said. In other counties departments in Ebensburg Portage and state College have bought cameras or Are weighing their options officials said. On wednesday Altoona police chief Janice Freehling said she a studying their possible use. A a it a something Iti be discussing with the City manager a she said. Departments looking into cameras now however might run into problems Sigler noted. In the Wake of several High profile police involved killings and ensuing protests and riots cameras have been in demand like never before. Everyone behaves better Bedford police were already looking into body cameras in August when Ferguson mo., police officer Darren Wilson fired 12 shots at Michael Brown an unarmed teenager implicated in an earlier robbery. Browne a death a followed by a grand jury a decision not to indict Wilson a spurred months of protests riots and unrest. The heavy handed police response featuring military gear and armoured vehicles sparked a nationwide debate on police militarization. Further controversial police involved deaths in new York City Baltimore and North Charleston s.c., were captured in part or entirely on camera ramping up claims that police should be recorded on the Job. It was in that atmosphere that in december president Barack Obama created the presidents task Force on 21st Century policing. A an increasing number of Law enforcement agencies Are adopting body camera programs As a Means to improve evidence collection to strengthen officer performance and accountability and to enhance Agency transparency a the task Force wrote in a March report. In a 12-month study Federal officials cited incidents in which police used Force dropped 87.5 percent when officers wore cameras. Officers with cameras also received 59 percent fewer complaints the officials said. A when police officers Are acutely aware that their behaviour is being monitored. And when officers Tell citizens that the cameras Are recording their behaviour everyone behaves better a the task Force reported. Officer worn Cam eras have already proven themselves in punishing alleged police criminality. After two Albuquerque n.m., police officers fired several Rifle rounds and killed a mentally ill homeless Man in March 2014, footage from a helmet camera prompted prosecutors to file murder charges. Others in Law enforcement including Higgins of Bedford county see them As useful tools in the opposite role preventing spurious allegations of police misconduct. A a we re the Good Guys a Higgins said. A hopefully what we do is a selective recording every time an officer turns on a camera he or she juggles transparency with civil rights As several officers described it. In Pennsylvania police face the added difficulty of restrictive state Laws and possible changes in Harrisburg. While the average citizen does no to have a Broad expectation of privacy while say walking Down the Street the rules change when officers respond on private property or Deal with sensitive situations said Terry Wyland Ebensburg police chief. A a we re trying to get together a policy. The problem is there a not a lot of advice out there a said Wyland whose department is looking into body cameras. A you done to want someone walking into your House with a camera recording video and audio. I understand a it just seems the More technology we get the More they re asking of us. We re human. We make mistakes Terry Wyland Ebensburg police chief its a concern that chiefs in several departments both Large and Small repeated in recent Days. Officers in Many jurisdictions already record stopped motorists for example but departments have to formulate fair policies when it comes to More sensitive recording. In Bedford Sigler said officers Are ordered to turn their cameras on anytime they respond to a a police intervention Call. They done to leave them on for their entire shifts or for More mundane tasks in part because the cameras Only record two hours of footage at a time he said. But a policy that requires officers to turn cameras on during More serious incidents can be hard to enforce especially in the heat of the moment. A a there a a learning curve to it a Sigler said. A especially in a stressful situation the last thing on your mind could be a turn the camera Wyland agreed noting that an officers momentary forgetfulness could Lead to later accusations especially As cameras become accepted As the Norm. A a you re walking Uptown and Boom you hear something a he said. A the first thing someone a going to say is a hey Why did no to you turn it on did you turn it off on purpose a a the ability to turn cameras on and off at will raises added concerns after a new Mexico police officer reportedly left his body camera off while fatally shooting a suspect the states american civil liberties Union Legal director decried a selective recording a according to Media accounts. A it just seems the More technology we get the More they re asking of us a Wyland said. A a we re human. We make mistakes changing Laws in Pennsylvania mistakes could Lead to Legal difficulties for police. Under the states so called wiretapping Law its illegal in Many settings to record someone without their consent. The Law forbids secretly recording a phone Call for example but it could also bar officers from turning their cameras and audio recorders on without permission. A in Pennsylvania with the wiretap Laws there Are some privacy issues some audio recording issues a said Freehling of the Altoona police. A a in be been researching Reading As much As i last year former gov. Tom Corbett signed a Bill freeing police from some wiretap restrictions. Under the new Law police can record citizens including audio but must inform their subjects a was soon As reasonably another 2014 Bill signed four years after Pennsylvania game commission wildlife conservation officer David Groves shooting death in the line of duty allowed wildlife officers to use body cameras. Supporters said the trial for Groves shooter which ended with a death penalty sentence might have been easier if the authorities had footage of the officers final moments. As with similar proposals the Bills to allow cameras for game officers got a mixed reception from civil liberties advocates. Cameras could be important tools but Only if officers delete irrelevant footage and allow citizens to Access recordings of themselves Acle state legislative director Andy Hoover told the evening Sun newspaper last year. A these cameras can be a very useful tool if used properly a he said at the time. The Law relaxing rules statewide also got some opposition in Harrisburg with one lawmaker noting that police would still be free to edit footage As they please. Another proposal in Harrisburg which would require All police to keep cameras turned on throughout their shifts would raise a raft of new concerns state College police chief Tom King said. King a who serves As chairman of the Pennsylvania chiefs of police association said he a holding Back on cameras in state College while the association lobbies lawmakers for clearer rules. He asked what if an officer responds to a medical emergency involving a child could the private footage be open to Public review a we be got to answer that if Kings department moved Forward with cameras it would be the largest in the area to do so. It might be an easier proposition there than in a Cash strapped City like Altoona where As Freehling noted issuing a several Hundred Dollar camera to each officer is easier said than done. Each police department has found its own Way to pay in Ebensburg a fraternal organization has offered to cover costs while Bedford accessed Money from drug seizures. Ultimately if legislators in Harrisburg manage to clarify the rules and ensure privacy cameras could be Well Worth the investment King said. Noting that he so a troubled by Many police involved killings nationwide and acknowledging the fraught relationship Between police and minorities in Many cities he said body cameras could be an important tool. A by All Means i think there a value in it. But we need to know that some of these issues can be resolved a King said. A a we be got to solve that. We be got to answer Mirror staff writer Ryan Brown is at 94&7457. Area or Glass k it n fast Mobile service news in Brief from around the Region West Decatur Man Dies in crash a 27-Yearold Man from West Decatur died in a vehicle crash sunday morning. Randy James was travelling North on Salem Road when his Ford explorer came in Contact with the East berm of Salem Road. A Clearfield state police report states James attempted to regain control of the vehicle As it spun 90 degrees counter clockwise and overturned several times. James was ejected from the vehicle. He was not wearing a seat Belt according to the report. Coroner Michael Morris pronounced James death at the scene. Brush fire hits sugar run area firefighters from a few Volunteer departments were dispatched sunday afternoon to extinguish a Brush fire stretching Over an acre in sugar run. A it Wasny to too bad a Allegheny township fire department capt. Steve Kephart said. The fire was near a train track possibly sparked by a passing train Kephart said. The fire was extinguished in about 45 minutes with about 600 Gallons of water he said. Police Man had drugs at rehab a Johnstown Man is accused of having heroin and other drug paraphernalia in his room at a Bedford rehabilitation Center last fall in october employees of pen Knoll Village found what Bedford state police believe to be heroin in the room of Roland Baldwin 40, according to a police report. Charges against Baldwin have been filed the report states. 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