As part of a pilot program examining the technology, Delaware State Police announced Thursday officers will begin wearing video cameras.
The department said 25 of its troopers across the state will wear a variety of video body cameras to evaluate functions of the camera types and data storage.
The use of body cameras is part of an effort to ensure transparency and maintain public trust.
“Conducting a body-worn camera pilot project will provide the Delaware State Police with a great opportunity to evaluate the impact of body-worn cameras on troopers and on the community,” said superintendent of Delaware State Police Colonel Nathaniel McQueen Jr., in a statement.
“It will also provide an excellent opportunity to evaluate the different types of technology, evidence management, data storage available and to finalize a uniformed body-worn camera policy. The pilot program will also enable Delaware State Police to determine how best to implement a permanent body-worn camera program.”
Plans for the pilot program were first announced in September after McQueen met with Gov. Jack Markell, D-Delaware, Department of Safety and Homeland Security Secretary Lew Schiliro and the NAACP. Participants said they agreed body cameras could support law enforcement activities and the rights of Delawareans.
William Bryson, chairman of the Delaware Police Chiefs Council and Chief of Police for the Camden Police Department, has been a proponent of the body cameras. “The Delaware Police Chiefs Council is pleased to see the Delaware State Police has initiated their pilot program,” he said in an email. “The results of this program along with the ongoing New Castle County Police pilot program will provide valuable information for all Delaware law enforcement agencies looking to initiate a body camera program.”
Although not a direct consequence of these incidents, police in Delaware have come under fire in recent months for alleged abuse against suspects.
In December a jury found Dover police officer Thomas Webster not guilty of assault stemming from an incident where he allegedly kicked a suspect in the head.
In September Wilmington Police shot and killed Jeremy McDole after reports he was concealed with a weapon. Family and friends of the alleged victim have been calling for justice.
Along with Ocean View and Smyrna Police, New Castle County Police began using body cameras in July, and in June Wilmington City Police began research on the technology. Also in June, a resolution sponsored by Rep. Larry Mitchell, D-Elsmere, was passed asking law enforcement to use body cameras.
The New Castle County Department said it has tested and examined eight different body worn cameras from various national companies. Throughout the process it learned how each camera is different and has its own positive and negative features. The department said it is currently deciding which company and camera to choose.
Officers say they appreciate the technology, and are aware it will help them during criminal and internal investigations.
The department is attempting to secure funding for the body worn camera program, and hope all officers will use the technology.
“The body worn camera program builds trust with the community and illustrates the transparency of the agency,” Col. Elmer Setting said in an email. “We are struggling with the cost but know it’s an important part of our future. “
Markell’s recommended fiscal year 2017 budget would use $500,000 to purchase body cameras for law enforcement within the Department of Safety and Homeland Security and to support the attorney general’s office in reviewing recordings.
“The Governor appreciates all of the work done by members of the State Police and DSHS to advance this initiative, recognizing the many issues that must be addressed to implement body cameras effectively,” said Markell’s press secretary Courtney McGregor. “(Thursday) represents an important step in the right direction toward helping our law enforcement do their jobs while building trust in the communities they serve.”