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On June 19, 2023, the Bethlehem Police Department completed phase one of a large scale project that has equipped officers in the Town of Bethlehem with body-worn cameras. The body-worn camera project originated as one of Chief Cocchiara’s long range goals for the department in 2020, as well as one of the core recommendations of the Police Reform & Collaborative Plan, and has been strongly supported by the members of the Bethlehem Police Department.
The policy for the use of the cameras and the video footage was derived from multiple sources. First, the policy is guided by specific state guidelines set forth by the Division of Criminal Justice Services that regulates the standards and “best practices” that police departments should meet when utilizing body-worn cameras. Additionally, members of the Bethlehem Police Administration have met with other police agencies that are currently using body-worn cameras and have considered their recommendations on what aspects assist in creating a strong policy. Lastly, the Police Department Administration reviewed the policy with members of the Police Community Advisory Group, and have considered their recommendations as well. The goal of the process was to create a policy that would strengthen trust between the Police Department and the community, increase transparency and accountability, and be supported by both the public and the police officers. The body-worn camera policy is now available on the Town of Bethlehem web site along with other department policies.
Phase two of this project is to replace the aging mobile car camera systems in the patrol vehicles with new cameras that work in conjunction with the body-worn cameras.
“I am so pleased that our outstanding police officers are now equipped with body-worn cameras,” said Town Supervisor David VanLuven. “The cameras advance our collective goal of further increasing transparency and accountability, supporting our officers, and protecting all community members.”
“The implementation of body-worn cameras will improve police accountability and adds a layer of trust, while inevitably lowering reports of alleged misconduct and community complaints,” said Chief Gina Cocchiara. “There is a cost saving component from reduced complaints against officers, and the reduced time required by the police administration to resolve such complaints. The cameras can be used as a training tool and will provide useful evidence for court cases”.