RI lawmakers approve statewide police body camera program

Politics

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The state of Rhode Island is one step closer to outfitting all of its police officers with body-worn cameras.

Both the state Senate and House voted Wednesday to approve legislation that would equip roughly 1,700 officers across every local department and the Rhode Island State Police with the devices over the next 12 to 18 months.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. José F. Batista and state Sen. Jonathon Acosta, now heads to Gov. Dan McKee’s desk for final approval.

Police in Providence and Newport are already using the cameras, while R.I. State Police just wrapped up a six-month pilot program. Other city and town departments have also conducted pilot programs, or plan to in the future.

The state budget proposal which passed the House last week and will go before the Senate this week includes $15 million for the program’s launch and first five years of operation.

Before the funding is distributed, the legislation passed by the General Assembly requires the R.I. Attorney General’s Office and Department of Public Safety to establish regulations for the use of the body cameras and resulting video. This must be done through a public process, with input from the R.I. Police Chiefs’ Association, stakeholders, and community members, and the regulations must address:

  • Proper use of equipment, data and equipment security
  • Activation and deactivation of cameras
  • Notification to the public of recording
  • Records retention procedures and timelines
  • Access to data by law enforcement and the public
  • Privacy protections, including redaction procedures
  • Compliance monitoring

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