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Groton City police officers go live with body cameras

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Groton City police went live with officer body cameras this week, adding an accountability tool that soon will be required of all state and municipal police departments.

Chief Michael Spellman said the department's 30 sworn law enforcement officers, including himself, would be testing the cameras for the first 30 days. He said the devices are a great public accountability and risk management asset for the agency.

"I hope the public is patient with us," Spellman said. "We're in a learning curve."

The department turned on its cameras Wednesday after Sgt. Patricia Lieteau, a certified trainer, conducted a training session on the use of the devices and de-escalation techniques.

Officers attach the body cameras to the chest area of the outer layer of their uniforms and activate them during interactions with the public to accurately document the interactions.

The city has contracted with Axon Enterprises Inc. to operate its body camera program. Cameras and equipment were purchased for $41,249, with a $38,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice covering most of the cost, Spellman said. The annual cost for storage of body camera footage is $19,356 and is expected to increase over the years.

The information collected will be stored in the "cloud" or in a secured area of the internet, in compliance with FBI Criminal Justice Information Services standards.

Spellman said the cameras will turn on automatically whenever cruiser lights are on. The department will be adding another feature, which will activate cameras of every officer within 100 feet whenever an officer unholsters his gun.

The department began seeking funding for the cameras in 2018. During an emergency special session in June 2020, the General Assembly passed a police accountability bill, HB6004, requiring all state and municipal police officer to wear body cameras.

Connecticut State Police troopers have been equipped with body cameras. Locally, Groton Town police was the first department to acquire body cameras, in 2017. Norwich police began using them in 2019. Other area departments, including New London police, are in the process of implementing body camera programs.

k.florin@theday.com

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