Point Park police don body cams


Photo by Chloe Jakiela

Point Park police officers assisted with freshmen move in day on Thursday, Aug. 25. They also talked to parents about body cameras they began wearing Aug. 1.

Written By Alexander Popichak, Editor-Elect

The Point Park Police Department has been using body-worn cameras about the size of a deck of cards since August.

The Point Park Police Department is one of the first university police departments in the state of Pennsylvania to use body-worn cameras and was the first to equip all sworn officers with them.

The goal, according to Vice President of Public Safety and Chief of Police Jeffrey Besong, is to provide another tool for police officers and add another layer of accountability to the federally-accredited police department.

“We wanted to use the technology to assist the officers in their report writing, being specific, as well as we can monitor our officers following procedures properly,” Besong said.

“One of the most important aspects [of implementing body-worn cameras] is that it will de-escalate a situation.

For example, if the officer arrives and there is a dispute on the street, which we just had an example of a few weeks ago, as soon as the officers told them they were recording, it de-escalated the situation immediately.”

While the camera is on throughout an officer’s shift, the officer must initiate the recording by pressing a large button on the camera. In the event something is recorded accidentally, the recorded video is deleted.

“As soon as the police officer gets dispatched to a call, he turns it on,” Besong said. “Based on where his location is at the time of the incident, he keeps it on at all times. However, if the officer is going into a private area such as a residence, he will turn it off unless he has the resident’s consent to walk in with the camera on.”

The only exception is in the event of urgent circumstances – cases where a resident of the public is in immediate danger.

“If there’s an exigent circumstance, and it has to be for us not to wait for the the AOD [administrator on duty],” Besong said. “If we hear loud screams or someone crying for help, we will knock on the door, announce ‘Point Park Police, open up’ and the camera will be on because no one has told us otherwise. As soon as we get the situation under control, we turn it off.”

Besong said this is just one aspect of the comprehensive policies and procedures the Point Park Police Department have put in place with respects to body-worn cameras. Besong wants students to know that this is a protection for them, as well as for police.

“We review the tapes [for training] and see what the officers are doing correctly, see what they can do better,” Besong said.

“I’ve been watching them for the past couple of weeks and it’s forcing our officers to remember what they have been trained in, and most importantly professionalism. If there was any concern of mistreatment or excessive force or any of those issues that come along that we hear about across the country, we will address that.”

Some officers on the force see the cameras in the same light as Besong – as a way for quality assurance.

“It’s an assurance for the police officers and there’s definitely an accountability factor on both sides,” Lt. Nicholas Black said.

Officer Alex Lee has a similar perspective.

“In today’s policing, it’s more proactive; this is definitely a step in the right direction. The cameras are valuable tools to assist us to do our jobs better,” Lee said.

Besong implores students to come to the police if necessary.

“If they have any questions or concerns, they can always call us; you have to be street smart since we’re downtown,” Besong said. “We have a really good police department, and I’m really proud of them and we do things right here.”