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Nassau County police to try dashboard, body cameras

Kevan Abrahams, along with legislative colleagues, in Mineola

Kevan Abrahams, along with legislative colleagues, in Mineola on Wednesday, June 4, 2014, announces legislation that would bring commonly used police video recording technology, including dash cams, to the Nassau County Police Department to help ensure both officers and the public are protected by documentation of police stops. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Nassau County Police Department will launch a pilot program on Monday to install dashboard cameras on patrol vehicles and require officers to wear body cameras that capture their interaction with the public.

Police officials disclosed the program -- part of an 18-month overhaul of the department's ethics policies -- shortly after Democrats in the county legislature announced a bill to create a similar pilot program.

The department's initiative comes after the alleged beating of Kyle Howell, 20, of Westbury, by two Nassau police officers during an April 25 traffic stop that was caught on a nearby store's surveillance camera.

One of the officers, Vincent LoGiudice, was charged Tuesday with two felony counts of second-degree assault and one count of third-degree assault, a misdemeanor. He pleaded not guilty.

Police spokesman Kenneth Lack said Nassau "will test and review this new technology with the assistance of two private-sector companies." The vendors, whom Lack did not identify, will provide the county with three different camera systems to try out at no cost. The cameras will be installed in six patrol cars and on six officers beginning Monday, Lack said.

At a news conference yesterday in front of Nassau police headquarters in Mineola, Democrats in the legislative minority said the cameras would enhance the public's trust in the police department.

"Body cameras and dashboard cameras have been in existence for over a decade," said Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport). "It's time that Nassau County catches up with the rest of the country."

The Democrats' legislation would create a demonstration program with cameras in marked and unmarked patrol cars and on motorcycles assigned to the busiest of the county's five precincts -- the First in Baldwin, the Third in Williston Park and the Fourth in Hewlett.

Body cameras that record audio and video would be mounted on officers from those same precincts.

The cameras would cost $1 million to $1.5 million, with the money coming from asset forfeiture funds, Abrahams said.

Legis. Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) said the cameras could provide evidence of inappropriate police activity. They also would help prevent confrontations between officers and the public from escalating because both would know their actions would be captured on camera and could be used in court, Bynoe said.

"This is a win-win situation," Bynoe said. "It not only protects our officers but it protects our citizens."

Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) called the Democrats' bill "a day late and a dollar short" because of the new police pilot program.

Nassau Police Benevolent Association president James Carver said the county should proceed cautiously with the program, expressing particular concern that body cameras could capture officers' interactions with minors or victims of domestic violence.

"I have some privacy concerns," Carver said. "We should carefully study this issue. It should not be a knee-jerk reaction."

Members of a specialized police unit that targeted drunken drivers had dashboard cameras mounted in their patrol cars from 2009 until the unit was disbanded in 2011, Carver said.

Suffolk County has dashboard cameras in its Highway Patrol Bureau vehicles that target DWI arrests.

In New York City, cameras are not standard issue for NYPD officers or their vehicles. But to settle stop-and-frisk litigation, the city earlier this year agreed to implement a judge's order to begin a pilot program requiring cops to wear body cameras. Commissioner Bill Bratton said earlier this year that the department is looking into the cameras.

With Matthew Chayes

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