Spring Garden Police begin wearing body cameras

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
FILE - In this April 27, 2017 file photo, a police officer wears a newly-issued body camera outside in New York. In 2018, the New York City Police Department, the nationâ??s largest, stopped releasing body camera video after a police union successfully argued in court that they were confidential personnel records. But the department vowed in February 2019 to continue releasing video of officer-involved shootings after an appeals court ruled that the unionâ??s argument â??would defeat the purpose of the body-worn-camera program.â? (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

The Spring Garden Township Police Department announced Wednesday, July 24, that it had initiated a body camera program with the help of a $24,400 federal grant. 

The cameras were distributed earlier this month to all sworn personnel, officials said. 

"Our officers are committed to providing professional law enforcement service to the Spring Garden Community," Chief George Swartz said in a news release. "In keeping that commitment, the body worn cameras will be a tool to strengthen transparency and accountability to you."

Situations that would warrant turning the body camera on include vehicle and criminal enforcement stops, service calls, physical or verbal confrontations, neighborhood checks and motor vehicle accident investigations, according to the department's policy.

A body camera does not need to be turned on when an officer is engaged in personal activities, having conversations with other officers or using personal facilities such as a restroom or locker room.

Body cameras will be worn at the center of the chest on the outer-most layer of the uniform. 

Swartz said body cameras will also be a "valuable tool" in documenting events, actions and statements. 

Accessing, copying or releasing files for "non-law enforcement purposes" are prohibited unless approved by the chief of police, according to officials. Right-to-Know Law requests will be handled by Spring Garden's RTK officer, officials said. 

The recording will be available for two years or until the requester obtains the footage.

An officer may turn off his or her body camera if requested to do so by a citizen, if the request is in the best interest of the police department. 

York City announced a body camera program in March 2016. The pilot program provided 14 officers with body cameras for three months, as previously reported by the Dispatch.

The program was then extended and expanded, outfitting all officers in the department with body cameras.

Additionally, the York City School District Police introduced body cameras for its officers in January 2017.

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.