The Office of the Attorney General, the Rhode Island Department of Public Safety, the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association, Rhode Island’s Congressional Delegation, and state legislative leaders today announced $16 million in grant awards for 42 local and state law enforcement agencies to equip approximately 1,773 frontline police officers with body-worn cameras.
Police departments will now purchase and operate the cameras governed by a recently finalized statewide policy that sets comprehensive standards for the use of the cameras.
Attorney General Peter F. Neronha and Colonel Darnell Weaver were joined for the announcement today by law enforcement and elected officials including Narragansett Police Chief Sean Corrigan, U.S. Senator Jack Reed, Congressman David Cicilline, Senator Jonathon Acosta (D-16, Central Falls and Pawtucket), Representative José Batista (D-12, Providence).
“Today is good day for all Rhode Islanders, as we equip front-line police officers across the state with a helpful tool that will benefit them and the public by assisting critical fact finding and building community trust,” said Attorney General Neronha. “In an increasingly technological age, where judges, juries and the public expect to see the evidence on which they are to make decisions and render judgments, making body-worn cameras broadly available makes perfect sense. With today’s funding announcement, we have removed a substantial monetary barrier for many municipalities that continuously juggle critical priorities. This has been a collective effort, and I am grateful to everyone, including leaders in the General Assembly, the Governor, members of law enforcement, and our Congressional Delegation who have made today possible.”
“Outfitting our Troopers and members of law enforcement with body-worn cameras is a key milestone as we work to address the issues that are challenges in policing today,” said Colonel Darnell S. Weaver, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and Director of the Department of Public Safety. “Cameras will add transparency, provide accountability, and give a point-of-view perspective – to every police contact. I expect that cameras will foster greater trust between citizens and their police departments, helping to lower complaints and improve relationships. These cameras will substantially improve the quality of evidence we collect and conduct investigations more efficiently.”
The Statewide Body-Worn Camera Program
In June 2021, Governor Dan McKee signed legislation creating the Statewide Body-Worn Camera Program to equip every frontline police officer with body-worn cameras. The Attorney General and Department of Public Safety, in consultation with the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association, were tasked with implementing the program, including promulgating rules and regulations to create statewide policy and eventually administer funding for departments to deploy body-worn cameras to officers.
In December 2021, Rhode Island’s Congressional Delegation secured a $1.5 million Department of Justice grant to supplement state funding for the program.
Under the program, state and municipal police departments applied for grant funding to cover the projected cost of a camera and related hardware, software, and storage, and an agency’s significant administrative costs in operating body-worn cameras. All funding is to be used to operate body-worn cameras over a 5-year period and awarded funds will only be distributed on a reimbursement basis, safeguarding taxpayer dollars.
The full list of body-worn camera grant awards announced by the Department of Public Safety is available here.
“The Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association is proud to support the use of body-worn cameras,” said Sean Corrigan, RIPCA President and Narragansett Police Chief. “We appreciate not only the immense value they provide in transparency, but also the opportunity to reach truthful resolutions and promote greater public trust. One of the key components of our Twenty for 2020 campaign was a pledge for every department in the state to research the feasibility and oversee the implementation of body-worn cameras. We are grateful to the stakeholders involved in the process and look forward to these cameras on our officers and in our streets.”
“Today is an important day in Rhode Island as we move forward in strengthening trust, accountability, and transparency between our police officers and the people they protect and serve,” said Governor Dan McKee. “I am proud to be part of this collaborative initiative that will help foster strong, positive community-police relations throughout the state. I thank the Attorney General, our Congressional Delegation, Speaker, Senate President and Colonel Weaver for coming together to implement this effective investment in public safety for our state.”
“This is about keeping people safe and serving justice. I am committed to ensuring our police officers have the tools and technology they need to enhance public safety. These evidence-capturing devices are part of that effort. They build trust with the community by ensuring transparency while aiding law enforcement with criminal investigations and prosecutions,” said U.S. Senator Jack Reed.
“The use of body-worn cameras helps to improve officer safety and bolster public trust in policing,” said Congressman Jim Langevin. “I’m thrilled that my congressional colleagues and I were able to partner with Governor McKee and state leaders to deliver the necessary funding to equip our brave women and men in law enforcement with this crucial technology.”
“The last few years have shown us how vital it is to foster relationships between our communities and police departments – and to equip our law enforcement with the tools they need to function efficiently and safely while also maintaining transparency and accountability,” said Congressman David Cicilline. “Unfortunately, many law enforcement agencies across the country can’t afford to provide body cameras to their officers. Thankfully, Rhode Island has taken steps to address that problem by establishing the Statewide Body-Worn Camera Program. I was proud to work with my colleagues in the delegation to secure federal funding supporting this initiative and want to thank all the local leaders who are working to implement this public safety program.”
“Getting this funding to our local police departments will have a swift impact on reform, transparency and the establishment of meaningful, effective oversight, as well as improving the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Every camera worn by an officer has the potential to defend justice and truth, and ultimately helps create the safer neighborhoods we all seek,” said Senator Jonathon Acosta (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket).
“Body-worn cameras are one concrete way to make our criminal justice system more just. The biggest hurdle to acquiring BWCs across the state, for too long, has been funding. I am proud to work with state leaders to make that funding available and I look forward to continuing to work with state leaders to improve Rhode Islanders confidence in public safety,” said Representative José Batista (D-Dist. 12, Providence).
“In June 2021, I participated in the announcement of the Statewide Body-Worn Camera Program, and I am pleased to see how far the initiative has come – from a policy idea to a program with guidelines, and soon the purchasing of cameras. These cameras can and will dramatically improve fact-finding in law enforcement investigations, and ultimately build stronger trust within our communities,” said Jim Vincent, President of the NAACP Providence Chapter. “I applaud the legislative officials who made this funding a reality, the Office of the Attorney General for their work on the rules surrounding these cameras, the Rhode Island State Police in the issuing these important grants, our Chiefs from communities for their enthusiasm in embracing this program, and our federal delegation for always efficiently supporting our communities with federal resources.”
Additionally, under the Statewide Body-Worn Camera law, police departments receiving funds through the Program must certify that they have adopted the Statewide Body-Worn Camera Policy issued by the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Public Safety before any awarded grant funds will be disbursed. This important requirement ensures that police departments statewide adopt model policies that protect constitutional rights, document critical interactions between law enforcement and members of the public, promote transparency, and build public trust in government.
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