Amid nationwide calls for police reform, Nassau County officials put out a request for information for body-worn cameras in June, and a request for proposals in September. Finally, on Nov. 9, the county’s Rules Committee approved funding for the measure, and the Republican-controlled County Legislature is set to vote on the measure on Dec. 14.
“This took many months to get done,” said County Legislator Carrié Solages, a Democrat from Valley Stream who had been pushing for a body camera program in the county since 2014.
They were first proposed in Nassau County in 2015, when then-County Executive Ed Mangano and former Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter proposed purchasing the cameras for 31 officers who patrolled predominantly minority communities, like Elmont. But members of the Nassau Police Benevolent Association and the Superior Officers Association filed a complaint with the state Employment Relations Labor Board, saying county officials excluded the police unions from its discussions of the program, and it never moved forward.
Then, over the summer, Solages and Legislator Siela Bynoe, a Democrat from Westbury, sent a letter to County Executive Laura Curran over the summer saying that any collective bargaining agreement with police unions should include a renewed discussion of the body camera program, and the Nassau County Police Superior Officers Association agreed to enroll in the program.
“The County has persevered during unprecedented challenges this year, a public health crisis and economic crisis, which has shown us how important it is that we commit to smart and transformative capital projects critical to the health, safety and quality of life of Nassau residents,” said Michael Fricchione, a spokesman for the County Executive. “This plan, which includes much needed funding for body cameras and road resurfacing will help make Nassau County the ideal place to live, work and play.”
Police body cameras, Solages and Elmont resident Mimi Pierre-Johnson said, could help protect the officers against allegations of police brutality, with a more complete and accurate record of police interactions.
“This is an investment,” Solages said. The program is expected to cost the county $500,000 in 2020, $3 million in 2021 and $1.5 million in 2022, Solages said, which is “nothing compared to” the settlements and benefits the county has to pay when a resident sues the Police Department.
Solages said he intends to vote in favor of the bonding in December, while mortgage and interest rates are so low, he said, and Pierre-Johnson said she thought it was “a step in the right direction.”