State leaders and law enforcement leaders came together Wednesday to announce an innovative statewide program to put body-worn cameras on every frontline police officer and supervisor in Rhode Island.
The statewide body-worn camera program, which will be introduced by Sen. Jonathon Acosta and Rep. José F. Batista with the backing of Attorney General Peter F. Nerhona, is designed to equip approximately 1,700 of Rhode Island’s uniformed patrol officers—across every police department and the Rhode Island State Police—with body-worn cameras over the next 12-18 months.
The legislation (2021-H 6463, 2021-S 0954) will establish the duties and responsibilities of how the program will be funded and will require a statewide policy regarding the use of body-worn cameras.
The program aims to maximize available federal funding and efficiently use state dollars, including a commitment of up to $1 million from the Attorney General’s Office. Around $3 million per year in state funding is necessary to ensure that all departments can purchase and deploy the cameras for a 5-year, state-supported implementation period—giving cities and towns the runway they need to budget for future maintenance.
The commitment of funding will be in the budget to be considered by the House Finance Committee this Thursday night.
The legislation also provides for the creation of statewide policies to ensure that the cameras are used effectively. The policies will be developed by the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Public Safety, in consultation with RIPCA, and with key input from community members and stakeholders through formal, public rule-making process. The statewide policies will address body cameras usage, notice to the public, records retention, privacy protections, open records, and compliance monitoring. To be eligible for state funding, police departments will need to follow the statewide body-worn camera policies.