The initiative first gained steam in 2014 but ended after the county failed to include law enforcement unions in the rollout. Credit: Newsday / Shelby Knowles

Nassau County has taken the first step toward equipping county police officers with body cameras as it looks for vendors to partner with in the design and implementation of a program using the technology, County Executive Laura Curran said Saturday.

The announcement follows a push from county Democratic lawmakers to outfit Nassau County police officers with the cameras, an initiative that gained steam in 2014 but ended after the county failed to include law enforcement unions in the rollout.

The county has issued a "request for expressions of interest," an RFEI, to seek vendors who can provide information about the equipment and costs, and potentially help the county carry out its first body camera program, Curran said at a news conference.

"Body cams have proven to be a valuable tool for promoting transparency, safety and accountability for everyone," Curran said.

The death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who died in police custody on May 25, and the subsequent two weeks of nationwide protests against police brutality and calls to defund the police, prompted the legislators to revisit the initiative from years ago.

"Following Mr. Floyd’s death, I have heard from countless constituents asking why body cameras are not used in the Nassau County Police Department," said Nassau County Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Elmont), in a letter to Curran on June 2.

Freeport Police Department is the only local division that has been using the technology for several years. "The program has been successful," Solages said.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. Credit: Howard Schnapp

If the county adopts a body camera program, it would be able to offer it to the 20 local police departments throughout Nassau and the county police department, as part of the county's shared services program.

Nassau County Legis. Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) said the county is "lagging far behind other jurisdictions on the deployment of body camera technology."

Bynoe, in a letter on May 29, urged the implementation of a body camera program to be part of contract negotiations between the county and law enforcement unions, whose labor agreements have been expired since 2017.

In a brief statement, Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said, "There will have to be more dialogue prior to the potential use of body cameras."

Curran said that police, law enforcement unions, the district attorney, county legislators and community members have been invited to be part of the process. 

“Nationwide, we are seeing what happens when there is not sufficient trust, or perhaps an erosion of trust, between police and the communities that they serve,” Curran said. "I am committed to continue to provide our officers with the resources, training and guidance to continue to perform their work at the highest level and help keep our neighborhoods safe."

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