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Head of the Harbor puts police body camera plan on hold

Head of the Harbor Village in Smithtown has

Head of the Harbor Village in Smithtown has 32 part-time police officers. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Head of the Harbor will pause an initiative announced last summer to equip village police officers with body cameras.

The pause was announced in the department’s Reform and Reinvention plan draft posted on the village website. That draft will get a March 17 public hearing over Zoom.

The self-reviews by police departments in New York State follow an executive order from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for all departments to come up with a reform plan by April 1 or risk losing state funding.

Head of the Harbor’s 28-page draft cites the high purchase cost of cameras, ongoing costs like data storage and management, and "the absence — thankfully — of any significant number of incidents in which body cameras would be of significant importance."

Village officials will reconsider after reviewing results of a Suffolk police trial of the cameras.

Mayor Douglas Dahlgard said in an interview that village officials made the move because their budget was "squeezed" by the pandemic. A plan to equip village police vehicles with cameras is also on hold, he said.

The reform draft also calls for village police to communicate more with the public by embracing social media, updating a department website and holding virtual community meetings.

All of the village department's 32 officers work part-time, including Chief Charles Lohmann. The department largely follows the county department's policies, and 28 of its officers are full-time county officers.

In the past 20 years, the department has received four complaints, most stemming from parking tickets or traffic violations.

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