NEW YORK — The murder of George Floyd prompted sweeping police reforms, and now Suffolk County is following other major police forces rolling out body cameras for its officers.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Thursday, the goal is to increase accountability and trust.
Not all police stops go smoothly, which is why soon, in Suffolk County, they’ll all be recorded. All 1,600 patrol officer will be equipped with body-worn cameras. They’ll be paid extra for wearing them and penalized for not turning them on when required.
“There is no denying that cameras change everything by providing video and audio that allows an event to be independently verified,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.
Bellone called it a “game-changing moment.”
It’s one of the last large police departments in the country to bring on body cameras. Nassau did so last year.
It’s a major part of reform in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the wave of protests that followed.
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison cited his former department – the NYPD – for the positives.
“It’s going to be able to tell the true narrative of an incident,” Harrison said. “It’s going to encourage respectful interactions between the police officers and the public.”
“Frankly, it is alarming to know that police in Suffolk County have not been required to wear body cameras,” said Serena Martin-Ligouri.
Martin-Ligouri sat on a bipartisan task force that worked for a year to reinvent how to better police.
“We need to create accountability,” she said.
Suffolk’s police union said their members have been asking for cameras as a way of protecting good cops from false complaints.
Communities of color are also hailing the rollout, but not as a cure to bias in policing.
“So even if they do nothing about it, we’re proving and showing that bias and racism is still happening, and we’re being beaten at a higher rate and a disproportionate rate than white folks,” said Shanequa Levin, founder of Long Island United to Transform Policing.
So what took so long? Expensive technology became more affordable with cloud storage. :
“With any new technology, I think there’s an inherent uneasiness with it. But I think once we understand that the cost can come down, there’s a benefit to everyone,” said Jason Richberg of the Suffolk County Legislature.
The goal is increased trust in police: A win-win for all.