Pennsylvania’s top cop backs body cameras

    Pennsylvania's State Police commissioner favors outfitting troopers with body cameras. (AP file photo)

    Pennsylvania's State Police commissioner favors outfitting troopers with body cameras. (AP file photo)

    The head of Pennsylvania’s State Police is noting his support of body cameras among troopers, though state lawmakers haven’t cleared a way for the devices yet.

    Commissioner Tyree Blocker told legislators he’s waiting for changes in state law to clear up some of problems surrounding the cameras.

    “I support law enforcement using enhanced technologies,” said Blocker, adding that body cameras are “one such technology whose time is here.”

    There’s a tangle of legal issues to consider for police chiefs thinking about body cameras, which is why most departments in Pennsylvania have steered clear of them. The state’s existing wiretap law on recording people would hamper the use of the cameras. And some advocates say the state would also be wise to set some rules for storing video and preventing any manipulation of the devices.

    Some lawmakers say body cameras also force a conversation about the state’s Right-to-Know law, which lets people request public records — including police camera recordings.

    “Every time somebody gets stopped … your neighbors are going to be doing Right-to-Knows on the video of you being stopped for running a stop sign,” said Rep. Mike Vereb, R-Montgomery, at a recent budget hearing with Blocker.

    Blocker said body cameras would also come with additional costs. Equipping his troopers with the cameras would take more than $2 million, not including the price of data storage.

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