Corbett says he will sign legislation allowing cameras to be mounted on police officers' bodies
Gov. Tom Corbett is expected to sign legislation that would allow Pittsburgh police to use its long-dormant $143,000 stockpile of small helmet- and lapel-mounted video cameras.
The state House and Senate passed Senate Bill 57 last week, which would change the wiretap law to authorize officers to put recording devices on motorcycles, bicycles or their bodies. Current law requires powering such devices from a police cruiser.
“It's a valuable tool both for us and the public, and it would be good to get it back in operation,” said Lt. Ed Trapp, who oversees intelligence and planning.
Jay Pagni, a Corbett spokesman, said on Monday that the governor plans to sign the legislation soon.
Pittsburgh spent more than $143,000 to buy 50 TASER International Axon Flex personal video camera systems in 2012. Officers could wear the cameras on helmets or lapels to record what they see and hear. The torpedo-shaped cameras are about three inches long, and the controller units are about the same height and width as a credit card.
Pittsburgh police used them from September 2012 until February 2013 before realizing the devices were not approved for police use, Trapp said. The department took them off the streets still uses them in training exercises, Trapp said.
Lawmakers this fall amended Senate Bill 57 to include the recording exception for law enforcement officers. It was introduced in January 2013 to permit audio recording on school buses. The bill passed the state Senate in a 49-1 vote.
State Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, said the cameras would be an effective tool for police officers, but he voted against the bill because it wasn't explicit about how the cameras can be used.
“The law should've given a more strict constraint on how police use those cameras,” Ferlo said. “It should be video without the potential for editing. That wasn't spelled out in the bill.”
Under the proposed law, police would not be permitted to record in homes and would have to notify whomever they record as soon as reasonably practical.
Police plan to wait until the state police add the cameras to its approved devices list before using them, Trapp said.
“I don't anticipate any problems,” he said. “Back when I found out there was a problem, I've been in touch with (state police) periodically, so they're familiar with the device.”
Trooper Adam Reed, a state police spokesman, said he couldn't provide a timeline for adding the cameras to the list.
“It sets the standard of what law enforcement in Pennsylvania can use,” Reed said. “It would be a thorough analysis.”
Trapp said police have examined model policies for the on-officer camera as they work to write their own. He expects motorcycle officers and bicycle officers to receive them once they are approved.
“For the public, I think it gives them more confidence in what the officers are doing,” Trapp said. “Any review of the tape will show what the officer was already seeing.”
Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Allegheny County Court judge removes Brentley from City Council primary ballot
- Owner of Penn Hills tombstone business pleads guilty to swindling the bereaved out of $90K
- Commonwealth Court ruling upholds Braddock mayor’s vote
- Pgh. International leader strives to inject Pittsburgh flavor into airport
- Groups seek $2.5M for North Side’s historic West Park fountain
- Friendship mortgage broker sentenced to 20 months in prison for fraud
- Shortfalls sabotage promise of union retirees’ pensions
- Falling bricks close 2 Squirrel Hill businesses
- Mt. Lebanon native, Iraq war hero’s action goes unrewarded
- Carnegie Mellon University’s Speck device monitors indoor pollution
- Ramp projects across Western Pennsylvania to start this week