DOVER, Del. (AP) — The state House voted Thursday to approve a bill requiring the use of body cameras by police officers and certain other government employees working in a law enforcement capacity.
House members voted unanimously for the bill after tacking on amendment directing the state Council on Police Training to include the Delaware State Troopers Association and the Delaware Fraternal Order of Police in discussions of regulations and standards for body worn cameras.
The two police unions were brought in after questions were raised during the committee process on how the body camera requirement might interfere with police collective bargaining agreements.
The amendment also extends the body camera mandate to include probation and parole officers of the Department of Correction assigned to law enforcement task forces.
The measure now goes to the state Senate.
“Body-worn cameras have the ability to be a game-changer in police-community relations. They greatly improve transparency and accountability while providing increased protection for both the police and the community,” said chief sponsor Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker, D-Wilmington.
The bill charges the Council on Police Training with proposing regulations for body camera use and activation, as well as electronic storage and dissemination of images, by no later than Jan. 15 of next year.
The council must hold at least two meetings to solicit public input and must consult with the Department of Correction, the Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families, and the Office of Defense Services in developing the regulations.
The legislation also expands the size of the council from 12 to 16 members in order to include the chairs of the House and Senate public safety committee and two members of the public who would be appointed by the governor and could not have any affiliation with law enforcement.
The bill applies to certain police officers, employees of the Department of Correction assigned to a law enforcement task force, and employees of the DSCYF designated as special investigators or serious juvenile offender officers. They would have to wear body cameras while on duty or in a role that is likely to result in interactions with the public.
It’s unclear whether the requirement would apply to a police officer working in an undercover capacity.
Currently, Delaware has 48 law enforcement agencies with a total of about 2,250 officers statewide. Twenty-three agencies already have body camera programs, with about 700 cameras in use and roughly another 400 expected once the Wilmington and Dover police department programs are fully deployed this month.
The bill directs the Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Office of Management and Budget, Department of Technology, Department of Justice and Office of Defense Services to implement a statewide body-worn camera program.
Legislative analysts estimate that the program would require initial funding of about $4.7 million in fiscal 2022, $6.5 million the following year, and about $7 million in fiscal year 2024.