Every officer with SEPTA’s Transit Police Department will soon be equipped with a body camera.
The transit authority will spend nearly $300,000 on the cameras for the more than 270 officers who are expected to have them by the end of year.
“I’m doing this because I think that it gives our police department more credibility with the community — that they’ll have more trust with us, that they feel there’s some kind of check and balance,” said SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel.
“Cameras will make good officers great officers and make marginal officers follow the rules,” he said.
Each officer will be responsible for activating the camera to record any incident, because there’s simply not enough space to store footage from an entire day from the entire force.
Cops ignoring protocol will face “serious repercussions.” And Nestel said, if he has his way, officers could be fired for not recording when they should.
Dr. Michael White, who teaches criminology at Arizona State University and wrote a federal report on body cameras, said punishments have to be in place to ensure that officers follow the rules.
“In communities where there is longstanding tension between police and residents, the failure to activate is going to be seen skeptically, it’s going to be viewed as intentional,” White said. “If the distrust is there to begin with, that’s only going to make it worse.”
While municipal police departments are increasingly investing in the technology, SEPTA’s transit police department is believed to be the first in the country to be fully equipped with body cameras.