Penn State police now equipped with body cameras

The university characterized the move as an effort for officers "to be more transparent and accountable with the communities they serve"


By Josh Moyer
Centre Daily Times

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — All Penn State police officers are now equipped with body-worn cameras, with the practice going into effect Monday.

The university made the announcement in a Sunday news release, characterizing the move as an effort for officers "to be more transparent and accountable with the communities they serve." The change fulfills a commitment from last June to equip said cameras within a year.

"This important step builds on our ongoing efforts to cultivate a more trusting relationship with community members," Charlie Noffsinger, associate vice president for Penn State University Police and Public Safety, said in a written statement. "While not a solution on their own, body-worn cameras can be used as a promising approach to improve interactions within communities when appropriate policy safeguards and training are in place."

Footage will be retained for at least 180 days, surpassing state recommendations that advise a minimum of 60 days. The university has also said it will follow a state law, Act 22, when it comes to releasing footage to both the public and the media — a state policy that has come under fire from the American Civil Liberties Union, which contends the law severely restricts access and undermines accountability.

Still, video can be used for evidence in court proceedings, in addition to a department training aid, an investigative tool for resolution of citizen complaints against officers, an assessment of officer-citizen contacts, officer performance evaluations and officer safety. All officers will be given four hours of training before utilizing the body-worn cameras.

The cameras will typically be used at the initiation of a call for service or during an encounter with the public that involves investigation or enforcement. Officers will inform individuals they are being recorded "as soon as practical."

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The implementation of the body-worn cams, small cameras with microphones located on the chest, will apply to all of the roughly 150 sworn university police officers scattered throughout 22 campuses, including University Park. The other campuses that can expect to see the cameras include Abington, Altoona, Beaver, Berks, Brandywine, Dickinson Law, DuBois, Erie (Behrend), Fayette (Eberly), Greater Allegheny, Great Valley, Harrisburg, Hazleton, Lehigh Valley, Mont Alto, New Kensington, Schuylkill, Scranton, Shenango, Wilkes-Barre and York.

The announcement comes less than a year after the State College Police Department implemented a similar practice with body cams.

More information about Penn State's use of body-worn cameras, storage of video data, policies and more is available on the University Police and Public Safety website.

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(c)2021 the Centre Daily Times (State College, Pa.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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