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    Monday, August 08, 2022

    Meeting request for body cam video is not a simple task

    This is in response to the recent column by David Collins, "New London demands $628.99 for police body to edit FOI-requested body cam video."

    I find that Mr. Collins' column is only a portion of the story that he wants to use to continue to spin a negative view of police and our work in the community. Mr. Collins request did come several months ago. And while he feels that his should take priority over others, it does not. Yes, there are some FOI requests that have to be expedited due to the nature of them. But this vague request did not rise to a level that should get Mr. Collins to the front of the line over all others. It was addressed as soon as it could be, especially due to our short staffing with civilian staff and sworn personnel.

    Mr. Collins' request was for an entire day worth of videos. There was no specific incident, case or officer he was requesting. Just an entire day. On any given shift there are 8 officers to include 2 supervisors, and 6 patrol officers working. With a minimum of 24 of those officers on the street during the 24 hours period and responding to anywhere from 50 to 300 calls for service per day. Some of the calls can last a few minutes to a few hours. You also have investigators and administrative staff conducting follow-up investigations logging hours of video. They record things during calls for service that are protected under the law, specifically FOI law, such as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault victims, juveniles as well as medical calls.

    Mr. Collins claims, "And I find it shameful that New London is making it so difficult to view police body camera footage that the public made so clear it wants made available." Unfortunately, there are parts of these videos and audio that Mr. Collins and the public are prohibited by law from having or viewing.

    It is our duty to provide protection to those consumers of services on the videos. This includes bleeping out sensitive information including names, dates of birth, and other biographical information. It also requires the blurring of faces of those that are not suspects or arrested persons.

    Mr. Collins was asked if there was a specific incident or a specific officer's video that he would like and he refused to narrow down the search of the video. Which we do not dispute is his right to request. But as you can imagine having to go through the approximately 14 plus hours of recorded video that Mr. Collins requested from that one day can be time consuming.

    The video was tasked to a Lieutenant in th e department who is the master administrator of the AXON camera system to redact. While body cameras are an amazing addition to our tools in the department, they come at a cost. A cost that is usually just absorbed at the loss of other items in our budget. The state mandates and their costs are often forgotten and laid at the feet of police administrations across the state to just figure out. Such as our drug testing and mental health evaluations that depleted our entire training budget last year with no additional increase to account for this added cost. This is no different with the body camera program.

    The Police Department has budgeted multiple times for a civilian staff member to handle the IT aspects of our department that would have included this type of work.

    Unfortunately, year after year it is cut from our budget . So, this now requires taking an officer, a Lieutenant, from his normal duties to fulfil this request. Should this cost just continue to be absorbed by the department and the taxpayers, while sacrificing other police services, for Mr. Collins' fishing expedition?

    Mr. Collins claim that "But not only do they have a self-interest in carrying out the edits, but they are not trained to interpret FOI law" is completely false. There are multiple sworn officers and civilian staff that have been trained including as recently as November of 2021.

    The officer tasked with this redact on was trained in FOI laws and has probably received more training than Mr. Collins.

    What I find shameful is Mr. Collin's one-sided in accurate article that does nothing but continue to fan the flames of the anti-police sentiment just to sell papers. It is also offensive that Mr. Collins chose to compare us to a fox and to use the word "molesting" in an analogy to compare the work our officers do on the street to this situation that is happening here.

    This is the opinion of the New London Police Union President and not that of the Police Administration or City Administration.

    The writer is the New London Police Union President.

    Editor’s Note: After columnist David Collins offered to reduce the number of officers in the request, city Law Director Jeffrey Londregan responded by email: “The City is inclined to just have all the video completed rather than choose certain officers to have completed.”

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