Saratoga County Considers Cameras For Deputies

Aug 12, 2015

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Months after a Saratoga County Sheriff’s Deputy resigned after a video of a confrontation with a motorist went viral, county government is taking steps to require officers to wear body cameras.

Back in November, then-Saratoga County Sheriff’s Deputy Shawn Glans was caught on camera slapping Colin Fitch. The video was shared around the nation before Glans resigned from his position and later pleaded guilty to charges of official misconduct and harassment.

That video was taken by the motorist himself. But now, county officials are now taking steps to require body cameras.

On Tuesday, the Saratoga County Public Safety Committee approved two measures based on recommendations from two subcommittees; one regarding the body cameras and another regarding a transport team for the Sheriff’s Department.

Clifton Park Supervisor Phil Barrett chairs the Public Safety Committee.

“There will be a tremendous amount of work that needs to occur for either initiative to move forward, however, the Public Safety Committee believes both initiatives are very important for the public safety of Saratoga County residents for many years to come,” said Barrett.

Putting a body camera program in place would require more than just a financial investment. For example, there are obvious questions regarding privacy and protecting the rights of the officers and members of the public.

Alice Green, executive director of the Center for Law and Justice in Albany, spoke with WAMC soon after President Obama suggested body cameras could help clear up a troubling gray area in police-community interactions.

“It could be helpful in some situations, there are a lot of issues to be worked out to effectively use body cams. There are a lot of issues as to how you use the technology, how do you protect people’s privacy with police officers having this tool,” said Green.

There are also matters related to storing the video and having it be made accessible. Again, supervisor Barrett.

“The video needs to be downloaded, managed, and reviewed by Sheriff Department personnel and disseminated upon request.”

And storing and protecting hours and hours of video data can be costly. While the committee unanimously supported both initiatives, Barrett says “it’s a matter of priority at this point.”

“It’s up to the Board of Supervisors to decide if and when either of these initiatives will be implemented but the transport team that we have recommended be implemented right away would provide immediate increase in assets for the Sheriff’s department and get more patrols on the streets of Saratoga County every day,” said Barrett.

Calls to Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo’s office were referred to Barrett.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday afternoon Zurlo’s office announced the establishment of concealed-carry program. Beginning August 17th, members of the public who have held a pistol permit in the county for at least a year would be able to enroll in a course to obtain an unrestricted permit. All permit applications would require approval from County Court Judge James Murphy.