Bellefonte, Centre County Pa- Body cameras are becoming increasingly common for police forces across the nation… including many departments in Central PA.
Nearly all local police forces in Centre County are now using body cameras. The two exceptions: Penn State Police and Bellefonte Police.
Bellefonte PD is looking to change this. The department’s Chief, Shawn Weaver, made a proposal for the new technology Monday evening in front of Bellefonte Borough Council.
Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna also addressed Borough Council. WTAJ spoke with DA Cantorna before he gave his Monday evening remarks. He says body cams are a “must-have” in today’s world.
“A body cam at this point is almost no different than a gun or a set of handcuffs… it really is a tool that law enforcement needs,” Cantorna said.
He added that body cams provide video and audio that are the best forms of evidence… compared to words written on paper recalling incidents after they happen. In short he says: the most immersive evidence makes persecutor’s jobs easier.
“It builds trust, transparency, and confidence in the legal system… and then when it comes to prosecution and arrest in legal cases, it makes cases very very simple to evaluate and prosecute,” Cantorna said.
But, he says the body cams are not just for his office.
“The public expects us to have a video capture,” he said referencing recent officer-involved shootings in Central PA, and across the nation.
Cantorna’s goal is to have all forces using body cameras to further ensure both officers and the general public are held accountable for their actions.
But, funding for body cams is sometimes tough to attain.
The story below explains what the Centre County DA is looking to do to help give additional funding to Bellefonte PD for the new tech.
DA Cantorna knows body cameras aren’t cheap. He says Bellefonte PD’s current estimate for the cameras is about $75,000.
“It’s a significant outlay for a small borough like Bellefonte,” he said.
So, his office is looking to do what it can to help offset costs.
“If we can help Bellefonte borough bridge the cost gap, we will,” Cantorna said.
He said the bulk of the cost for body cams is not for the actual camera, but instead is for storage and software. These are costs his office is hoping to fund with money from Centre County’s drug forfeiture fund.
DA Cantorna says he hasn’t yet pledged a specific amount of money towards the cameras, but whatever he is looking to give would correspond with the percentage of drug cases handled by Bellefonte PD in Centre County.
“I’m trying to make the tax burden on the citizens the least onerous as possible,” he said.
DA Cantorna added that Bellefonte PD has also applied for grant money for the body cams. He says he’s offering the same financial assistance to any other local police forces in the county (related to body cams).
WTAJ will follow-up with Bellefonte Borough Council on this story regarding Council’s interest in moving forward with regard to body cameras.