The Newark Police Department may be close to rolling out body cameras to its officers.
The department recently released a formal request for proposal asking vendors to bid on providing 60 body cameras, as well as new dash cameras for the department’s vehicles, new cameras for the police station interview rooms and a data storage system.
After the bids are received, city council will vote on the proposed purchase in late September or early October, with the cameras expected to arrive later in October if council approves them.
The city budget approved last fall includes $780,000 over the next five years for the cameras and storage, some of which will be covered by a federal grant.
Body cameras – which clip onto an officer’s uniform and record his or her interactions with the public – have been adopted by many police departments over the past few years.
The Newark Police Department said the cameras will strengthen police accountability, prevent confrontational situations by improving officer professionalism as well as the behavior of the people being recorded, help supervisors investigate complaints filed against officers, allow the video to be used for training purposes and provide additional evidence for prosecutions.
In 2015, then-Attorney General Matt Denn called for every officer in the state to eventually be equipped with a camera. Some departments, like New Castle County Police and University of Delaware Police, are using cameras, but other departments have been slower to adopt the technology, which is expensive and requires policies for how to store and review the footage.
At the time, Newark Police Chief Paul Tiernan said NPD would take a wait-and-see approach and allow other agencies and the Delaware Police Chiefs Council to develop best practices.
“We don’t want to rush into it, but it’s definitely something we’re interested in,” Tiernan said in 2015.
The Newark Police Department first experimented with body cameras in 2014 using its civilian parking enforcement officers, rather than sworn police officers. The one-year trial was instituted because “there were some complaints about parking enforcement officer demeanor,” a police spokesman said at the time.
After that, though, parking officers were transferred out of the police department and stopped wearing the cameras as city officials rebranded the officers as “parking ambassadors” and tried to give them a softer, friendlier image.
Last year, NPD quietly piloted body cameras again, with a handful of sworn officers testing out models from different manufacturers.