Cameras in cop cars

Looking to improve safety for local cops and residents, Niskayuna is going ahead with installing cameras in all area police cars. Similar to that used by a growing number of law enforcement agencies across the country, the new equipment will provide a visual and audio record of what goes on during local traffic stops.

It will also provide the department's top brass with what could prove to be a valuable training device by making it possible to show frontline officers real-life examples of how to improve their effectiveness.

The cameras won't be paid for by town tax dollars. Instead, the proceeds from selling the vehicles and other property impounded earlier this year at one of Niskayuna's largest drug busts will fund the new equipment.

This money is the product of good police work, and we're reinvesting it in the department to make improvements, said outgoing town board member Bill Chapman. "This equipment will protect both the public and our police officers by providing a record of all the interactions when there are traffic stops out on our roadways."

The technological upgrade is just the latest in a series of changes that are dramatically modernizing the cars police use in Niskayuna. Those changes include installation of laptop computers that allow police to take and e-mail incident reports from their cars into a departmental database. Police already used a laptop to expedite reporting in a missing persons case involving a child earlier this year.

Local police are also able to use the same system to access information about a crime scene when responding to a call. This gives up-to-the minute information on the status of an incident and could clue them into the history of weapons or dangerous persons at the scene.

"The cameras are something we've been considering for a while," said town board member Liz Orzel Kasper.

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