Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler said his office will offer funding to Orange County’s local police agencies and to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office for the purchase of body-worn cameras (BWCs), and for training about implicit bias.
The funds will be taken from forfeiture proceeds that the District Attorney’s Office received from 2019’s Operation Bread, White and Blues narcotics investigation.
Funding will be provided for the purchase of BWCs for any agency that wishes to equip its officers with them.
The District Attorney’s commitment extends to the purchase of equipment, but not to its maintenance or storage, or to storage of recorded video.
Town, village, or city councils or boards for interested agencies, or in the case of the Sheriff’s Office, the County Legislature, would have to approve BWC purchases in advance, and would have to agree to provide funding for maintenance and storage.
Implicit bias training
Funding also will be provided for implicit bias training for any interested police agency. This training is designed to expose people to unconscious biases that may influence their behavior; to provide tools to adjust to the influences that unconscious bias might cause; and to thereby eliminate unconscious discriminatory behavior.
Hoovler said he will also require his staff to participate in similar training, so that police and prosecutors may both address any bias in their professions.
“The use of body-worn cameras has been shown to enhance that transparency and trust, as well as to provide evidence and clarity about what happens in some volatile situations,” Hoovler said. “In addition, there are those who believe that law enforcement exhibits racial bias against citizens. Implicit bias training is designed to make officers aware of any unconscious biases that they might have, and to train them to avoid any discriminatory behavior that those unconscious biases might cause.
“We hope to help our police agencies maintain transparency in their operations,” the district attorney added, “and to address any racial issues that might arise in policing.”
‘A great first step’
Dominick Blasko, Chief of the Town of Crawford Police Department and President of the Police Chiefs’ Association of Orange County, welcomed the effort.
“This equipment can certainly assist our agencies in increasing transparency and accountability for our personnel,” Blasko said. “While it is a great first step, this offer addresses just one area of a complete body camera program. The storage of video footage, privacy concerns for crime victims and witnesses, and the development of appropriate department policies and procedures are just a few of the significant logistical concerns. These concerns are currently preventing police and municipal leaders from being able to put these programs into place within their respective agencies.
“The members of the Police Chiefs’ Association of Orange County are committed to bringing the changes needed to be more transparent to our communities and to increase the safety and security of all our residents and business owners,” the chief added. “We now call upon our State officials to consider the financial implications of this program and provide law enforcement with the necessary additional funding to support this valuable and necessary initiative.”