Cornell Police recording every call with body cams

ITHACA (WSYR-TV) - Uniforms for Cornell University Police Officers now have a new device – body cameras – a new component in the department added during winter break.

As of last month, body cams are now mandatory and required to be turned on for every call, according to Cornell Deputy Police Chief David Honan.

Honan says there is a “national conversation surrounding” body cams and Ithaca or the Cornell University campus is no different.

Whether an officer is on a traffic stop or responding to a fight or a call for a stabbing — everything in the officer’s body cam view will be recorded.

Witness testimony, evidence and other case details can later be used in court. A video will be stored in the department’s archive depending on the severity of the case.

For instance, a case that has a statute of limitations will dictate how long that particular video is stored, Honan explained.

Cornell joins the Ithaca Police Department in adding body cameras, which rolled out its program in October of 2015.

Deputy Chief Honan says Cornell University has been supportive and proactive in adding body cams.

He says adding them will add to the trust officers have established with the campus community and increase the department’s accountability.

“It’s a valuable tool for us to capture what the scene looks like when the officer arrived,” Honan explained. “What’s going on at that scene? It also helps us capture where evidence is and anything that may be going on during our initial few moments at the scene of a crime.”

When an officer responds to a call, the body cam must be turned on and recording, Honan said. After a call is completed, the video clip is assigned to the case file.

“The conversation and the video will be recorded,” Honan explained. “Of course, if you’re the victim, we would make sure we would have the proper protections in place if that video ever had to be submitted in court to  protect your privacy later.”

Honan says body cams are not just for gathering evidence on a call.

First-year Patrol Officer Rhonda Bullard says it’s also a teaching tool.

“I do think it’s a good tool,” Bullard said. “I fully plan to utilize it where I have my sergeants and sit down with them and actually have them review something with me to get their feedback to see, should I have done something different? And have that kind of a conversation because they’re not on scene with me.”

Deputy Chief Honan says in order to continue raising the bar of accountability – the next step will be to put a dash cam inside every patrol officer’s car.

The department plans to have dash cams in each patrol car as soon as possible, according to Honan.

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