PROVIDENCE — Executive Director Sid Wordell and President Richard Ramsay wish to provide the following statement on behalf of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association, following last week’s announcement at the State House that a new statewide program would seek to equip all front line police officers and their supervisors with body worn cameras:
“Last year, the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association launched a statewide initiative called the Twenty for 2020 campaign, which consisted of a series of 20 promises and policy changes signed by every police chief in the state. One of the key components to the campaign was that Rhode Island chiefs believe in the value and goodness of the profession of policing, but to be legitimate in the eyes of our communities we must be part of the modernization and reform movement.
Included in this campaign was a pledge for every department in the state to research the feasibility of body-worn cameras. The benefits of a camera program were well-established. The usage of cameras improves accountability, transparency and professionalism. They improve citizen behavior during incidents, increase police training opportunities, expedite the truthful resolution of police misconduct complaints, and promote public trust.
Cost, however, had always been the greatest barrier to the enactment of these programs all around the country.
Our chiefs have served on a committee for several months with both the Governor’s office and the Attorney General’s staff. One thing that was clear from the start was that any effort to equip officers across the state with body-worn cameras would require buy-in from all key stakeholders from the local and state level, among law enforcement agencies and elected officials alike.
The announcement made on Wednesday, June 16, was a major first step in the right direction. The Rhode Island Police Chiefs were joined by elected officials — including Attorney General Peter Neronha, Governor Daniel McKee, Speaker of the House Joseph Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio — in making a commitment to fund the implementation of a program that would be the first of its kind in the nation. Rolling out roughly 1,700 cameras for officers and troopers across the state would also require input and direction from the citizens of Rhode Island, as an open dialog is critical to the program’s success and it’s goal of improving police-community relations.
To be clear, the police chiefs of Rhode Island support the immediate, broad and long-term implementation of a body-worn camera program. It is the right thing to do, and we are grateful to our elected leaders for their support. Cameras should be the new, permanent, normal. The Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association looks forward to working with our partners in the State on making sure this program is equitable, impactful and sustainable.”