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Retired Officer Proposes Police Body Cams

Retired Jamestown Police Department officer Jeff Russell, At-Large councilman, has proposed that all officers, including detectives and their supervisors, should wear body cameras when interacting with the public. Currently, only uniform officers are mandated to use body cameras when interacting with the public. P-J file photo

Should all Jamestown Police Department officers who interact with the public wear body cameras?

According to retired former Jamestown Police Department officer Jeff Russell, At-Large councilman, detectives and their supervisors, which would include a captain and a lieutenant, should also wear body cameras when interacting with the public.

Russell made the announcement during a Jamestown City Council work session meeting Monday. He said only uniform officers are currently mandated to wear body cameras even though detectives and their supervisors also interact with civilians.

“I think it’s imperative at the police department that we have transparency,” he said. “I think our detectives wearing body cameras when they have contact with the public would further show that we are trying to be transparent, that we aren’t hiding anything.”

Russell said when detectives are “out in the field” they are doing interviews sometimes at someone’s house and it would be important to have body camera footage in case something happened or an allegation was made against the police officer. He said body cameras protect civilians and the officers themselves because it’s additional evidence that could refute a false claim.

Lt. Tim Jackson, Jamestown Police Department interim chief, said there are about 10 non-uniform officers. He said that the department has spare body cameras, but didn’t know if there were 10 additional cameras.

Anthony Dolce, council president, asked if it would be feasible for detectives to wear body cameras because they are doing investigative work that, at times, deals with confidentiality issues. Russell said usually the only exemption for not turning on a body camera is when an officer is working with a criminal informant during a drug investigation.

“That is a touchy situation when you are dealing with a criminal informant,” Russell said. “That is different than regular detective work and supervisors going into the public. Drug enforcement work is completely different.”

Jackson said officers are instructed to turn on their body cameras whenever they are in contact with the public. He said whenever an officer doesn’t use their camera after being in contact with a civilian they have to file a report detailing why they didn’t turn the device on. He added that he could amend the department’s body camera policy to include detectives and supervisors. Jackson also said he will have to look at the details of the Kendall Club Police Benevolent Association contract with the city to see if enforcing detectives and their supervisors to wear body cameras is allowed.

The council will continue discussing the proposal before any final determination is made.

In other business, Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist provided an update in the search for a new police chief after the retirement of Harry Snellings July 10. He said, so far, 30 people, including Jackson, have submitted their applications for the position. Sundquist said he will be forming a committee that will include members of the public, council, and police and fire departments to make a recommendation. He said city officials are accepting applications for the position through the end of the month.

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