For the benefit of both the Suffolk County Police Department and the community it serves, we need to seriously and immediately begin to openly discuss and pursue the possibility of issuing police body cameras. There have been significant improvements in policing in the past few years since the hate crime killing of Marcelo Lucero. But they came after the subsequent strained relations between the community and the Suffolk County Police Department, leading to a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation. Existing technology would reduce the risk of future allegations of misconduct because they could be confirmed or negated by the use of body cameras on police officers.
We are currently in a time of profound civil disturbances involving encounters between civilians and police officers. Nassau County and other police departments across the country are issuing or actively considering the possibility of issuing “body cams.” The Suffolk County Police Department had apparently adopted an unofficial “wait and see” attitude toward body cams. We cannot afford to wait until a tragedy occurs in our county as it has in so any others. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We need and deserve a clearly stated position of the County Executive, local mayors, town supervisors and other elected and appointed officials as regards the use of body cameras in their respective communities in Suffolk County. There is evidence, to be disputed or accepted, that body cameras act to deter crime as well as to encourage police restraint.
There are obviously financial costs of providing body cameras and storing collected data. Perhaps body cameras are economically not feasible. But there have also been financial pay-outs of significant amounts (the most recent being $200,000) in allegations of police misconduct. Body cams would clarify such disputes, and such payouts could be used to defray the cost of implementing body cameras and would serve to benefit both the Suffolk County Police Department and the community it is dedicated to serve.
Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter presided at the funeral of Marcelo Lucero in 2008. The Congregational Church of Patchogue church has hosted many community events, including the upcoming Community Forum on body cameras that will take place at the Congregational Church of Patchogue on Monday, May 4th at 7:30 in the evening.