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Westover Council approves bodycam policy

WESTOVER — Police Chief Richard Panico said the police department received approval of its bodycam policy from the Civil Service Commission.

All 15 officers in the city will be equipped with bodycams, according to Panico.

“More than anything else, we’re just fine-lining the policy we had,” Panico said at this week’s Westover City Council meeting.

Bodycams are required to be on at all traffic stops, Panico said. The policy follows closely recommendations from the American Civil Liberties Union. Panico said policies from various departments across the country were consulted to determine the appropriate time to use a bodycam.

The “rule of thumb,” Panico said, in activating the body cameras includes when an officer believes there is potential for a negative encounter with a citizen, when there are legal reasons — such as search warrants or arrests — and at the discretion of the officer if a witness statement is needed or if a situation appears to be “turning bad.”

“If I bodycam you as a citizen and you’re not aware … I have to inform you and, in some cases, I have to request your permission,” Panico said.

At the end of every year, the bodycam footage is archived. Panico said once a citizen is aware they are being recorded via bodycam, they have 30 days after adjudication to have the footage destroyed.

Other news out of this week’s meeting:

There were 72 traffic stops and 36 citations. Panico said the citations being issued are typically for something flagrant, like speeding or “running a device.”

An ordinance granting franchise agreement to West Side Telephone Co. was approved.

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