ITHACA, N.Y. – The Ithaca Police Department unveiled a protocol for the use of police body cameras at a Community Police Board meeting Wednesday afternoon.

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Officials said the cameras are intended to aid police officers in their daily tasks, increase transparency and gather evidence.

The following are some major details of the protocol:

Who wears them?

Every officer who will possibly respond to calls for service must put one on at the beginning of a shift. The officer responsible for ensuring the camera is functioning properly and notifying their superior if it malfunctions.

They are not required to tell people they are being recorded but must honestly answer a person who inquires about the recording.

An officer without a camera who is responding to a situation where time is of the essence can forgo wearing a camera with a superior officer’s permission.

Are the cameras always recording?

All calls for service will be recorded starting when the officer begins responding to a call for service from a dispatcher and will continue until the call is resolved.

Casual interactions with the public, such as helping people with directions or answering questions, will not be recorded unless the interaction becomes adversarial.

Officers can use their discretion to turn off the camera when dealing with people who may have been raped, are victims of domestic abuse, are partially clothed or nude, or are witnesses who fear retribution for cooperating with the police. An officer can cover a camera and conduct an audio interview if one of these people requests.

Interviews with confidential informants can go unrecorded with an officer’s discretion.

An officer must say why they are turning a camera off before doing so.

Is there anything prohibited from being recorded?

Police department personnel doing routine or non-Law Enforcement Operations are prohibited form being recorded.

Anything that happens inside IPD headquarters or SWAT command center is not recorded unless the officer is with a member of the public or instructed to do so by a court order or part of a criminal investigation.

A commanding officer can give permission to turn off cameras when an officer is doing work deemed non-essential to a case, such as directing traffic at a scene that is under control.

What if there’s an officer involved shooting or injury?

The highest ranked officer at the scene must confiscate all body cameras at the scene if an officer uses a weapon, a person in custody dies, or a non-officer suffers serious bodily injury.

The video is then saved for further review of the incident.

What if the camera malfunctions or doesn’t record an incident?

An officer must promptly inform a commanding officer of the incident.

The malfunction or failure to record must be explained in the police report of the incident.

An officer must begin using a functioning camera before engaging in any more law enforcement activity.

How long will the video be kept?

Footage must be uploaded to a storage system at the end of an officer’s shift.

All videos must be kept at least six months and then deleted, unless otherwise noted.

Video recording felonies can be kept for a minimum of 25 years.

Misdemeanor offenses can be kept for up to five years.

IPD personnel can opt to keep videos of violations and traffic infractions as part of a criminal investigation for one year.

Videos questioning an officer’s handling of events or involving a complaint are kept as long as the Community Police Board deems necessary or as long as needed for administrative or legal reasons.

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Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.