Police Chief: Body, car cams use expected in coming months

FAIRFIELD — Fairfield police have finally received a nearly $1 million reimbursement from the state, pushing along an initiative to have all officers wear body cameras in as soon as four months.

“We’re currently finalizing a server room in police headquarters that will incorporate the servers,” Police Chief Chris Lyddy said. “The most complicated part is the installation of the units on the cars, it’s a bit time consuming and we have to space it out.”

As Fairfield police begin to receive their equipment in the coming weeks — 80 body cams and 60 in-car video systems — officers will undergo training in wearing and using the video recorders.

When asked about details, Lyddy said that body cameras would require activation and could be left to the officer’s discretion to record or not.

“Officers would be required to activate their body cameras during any contact with individuals. However, there are times that it may be inappropriate and officers will have the discretion to turn off the camera upon notifying the person they’re speaking to,” Lyddy said.

Instances where the cameras could be turned off, Lyddy said, include when officers are talking to underage children.

In-vehicle cameras, on the other hand, would be activated automatically when officers activate the sirens or lights.

“(Cameras are for) collecting the best evidence possible,” Lyddy said. “I believe that in many instances it will serve as a court record for when it happens on the field and paint a clearer picture any time that we interact with our community.”

Last September, the Representative Town Meeting unanimously approved a $747,724 grant request destined for the body cameras and training program. The town would be fully reimbursed by the state for the cameras, servers and software costs as well as a $7,500 training.

Fairfield joins a group of towns and cities like Norwalk, Stamford and Bridgeport that have supplied all officers with body cameras in the last year in efforts to advance transparency, document evidence and protect officers from complaints.

First Selectman Mike Tetreau said that body cameras would have a positive impact and provide more transparency in Fairfield.

“While we have a low level of complaints of controversial situations, body cameras should help document that our officers are following the proper protocols,” Tetreau said. “They will serve as a good resource when there are issues that arise to improve training or modify our protocols.”