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Rochester Police Department's body-worn camera program getting an upgrade

(WHAM photo)

Rochester, N.Y. - Officers who patrol Rochester streets are getting new body-worn cameras. All 505 of the current cameras are being replaced by the vendor under the five-year warranty.

The upgraded body cameras came in about a month ago. Patrol cars and uploading stations are in the process of being converted. This comes amid several complaints about the quality of the current ones.

“The first issue is the clips were just falling, cameras were all over the place," said Rochester Police Union President Michael Mazzeo. "I’m really not expecting too much, or really going to be too impressed with what’s coming.”

The new body camera holder is now attached with an "X" shaped magnet, in hopes of the cameras staying on better.

"The reason we think this is better is because officers always have something ridged to clip the camera to," said Lt. Michael Perkowski. "Also, the camera is always being clipped down, so it's vertical and gravity is holding it on the officer as well."

"Our officers found that the magnetic is actually strong enough that it will subtly pull their weapon or change the direction their weapon is pointed," Mazzeo said. "This can be significant, if they're behind another officer or even if it ends up being in the direction of their arm or other parts of their body."

The new version is 32 gigabytes, is said to have better video quality and the battery life lasts up to 14 hours opposed to 10. The record button is on the side of the camera instead of the front.

"So, if you get into some sort of close quarters fight or just the officer putting his seat belt on or putting something in his car, the likelihood the button gets pressed to either record or stop recording is less likely," Perkowski said.

The city launched the body-worn camera program in 2016 to increase transparency between police and the community it serves.

"If we're going to direct them to have to use the camera per policy, we want to make sure the equipment can also work with them and work when they want them to work," Perkowski said.

Since July 2017, RPD has reviewed 1,185 videos. They conduct random sample checks to ensure officers are in compliance with the program. At this point, 93 percent of officers are in compliance with the program.

Mazzeo is still concerned about how the video is stored and who's analyzing it. Lt. Perkowski said the hope is to create a Digital Property Clerk, which would be one place where all the evidence-based digital imaging would be stored.

Officers will go through 30-40 minutes of training. Clinton Section officers are currently testing out the new cameras. Goodman Section officers are next to get them.

The new cameras are expected to be rolled out by June 1.

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