UPDATE: Includes statement from NAACP. The Bridgeport Police Department has no dashboard cameras in its 63 patrol cars. Civil rights activists like them to guard against police abuse, even some cops like them because they can contradict a false citizen complaint. So the cameras function as both protection for citizens as well as guarding officers from false claims. The East Haven Police Department, facing a federal investigation into racial profiling including federal criminal charges against four officers, recently installed dashboard cruisers at a reported cost of $115,000 for 16 cars.
In response to a request for comment from Police Chief Joe Gaudett, Bridgeport police spokesman Bill Kaempffer says “The chief said it is a matter of limited fiscal resources. Not only retrofitting a fleet of cars but also establishing the infrastructure to store and maintain all the data would be an expensive undertaking.”
But measure that against the liability the city pays out for civil complaint actions over the years and perhaps it’s a wise investment. And perhaps it would give some cops pause about doing Dirty Harry impersonations.
The graphic YouTube video of three city cops stomping suspect Orlando Lopez-Soto that made national headlines could cost the taxpayers of Bridgeport more than the investment it would take to install dashboard cameras.
So chief, why not include the money in your budget? Let the City Council say no to dashboard cameras in an election year. That way you can say well, if we had dashboard cameras maybe … Perhaps Mayor Bill Finch and the council will authorize enough funds to start the process and phase it in over time.
Or why not go to Congressman Jim Himes? Hey Jim, can you secure us a grant for dashboard cameras? Or lobby the city’s legislative delegation in Hartford to push for the money.
Carolyn Vermont, president of the Greater Bridgeport NAACP issued this statement:
The NAACP agree with the article’s suggestion for dashboard cameras in principle, with provision for financing & implementation to be worked out through elected officials as suggested. Perhaps one area that can be researched for funding is Homeland Security. With the high level of complaints of police brutality, it would be in the best interest of the police department and the residents to have the cameras installed in the cars as soon as possible. The City can pay now for the installation or pay later in the form of lawsuits.
It has recently come to our attention that the nearby community of East Haven, CT, has taken the proactive stance of going about acquiring and installing “dashboard cameras” in their Police Department Patrol Vehicles. The fact that this may well have been prompted by pending Federal Authority litigation due to allegations of racial profiling, in East Haven, in no way diminishes the necessity for Bridgeport elected officials to strongly consider acquisition of this modality, in addition to various others, as a part of our developing action plan to address the recently video captured, unprofessional conduct, at the hands of our very own Police Officers here in Bridgeport.
Admittedly, technologic gadgetry is not the full answer for the ills Bridgeport’s Police and Public now suffer. There are the perennial scourge of Unemployment and Poverty, compounded by Drug Addiction and Disease, consequent to lack of Education and Opportunity, leading to involvement in the Criminal Justice system.
The NAACP and various other organizations, religious and non-affiliated alike, are actively engaged in the alleviation of these burdens.
There are costs to be considered, and fiscal priorities are in this circumstance, as always, paramount. However, we of the NAACP, agree that the trust and security of our citizens mandates, that we meet this challenge of insuring our city of the continued professional conduct and high performance in all circumstance, of our Police personnel. Perhaps Homeland Security can be considered as a resource for funding.
It will be with the leadership of our elected representatives and responsible Police officials, acting rationally and judiciously and in unity with our entire citizenry, that the trust and security of the Bridgeport community can be restored and strengthened.
The NAACP stands prepared to join in this task.