Camera creates flap in Police Department

Employee unions seeking to have dispatcher surveillance controlled or removed

Union leaders in the Bethlehem Police Department are questioning a decision to install a camera in the department's dispatch office.

The camera, which also records audio, was put in place this week. The installation comes on the heels of the suspension of Dispatcher Eric Kerr for allegedly threatening his coworkers. His imminent return to duty has some upset and fearful, according to several sources interviewed by The Spotlight.

Supervisor Sam Messina declined to say why the camera was installed, citing a personnel matter, but said it was a decision arrived at after conversations between Chief of Police Louis Corsi, the Human Resources department and police dispatchers.

It was my understanding that the cameras were placed in there, and it was kind of a normal process, Messina said. "We have lots of cameras around the police department."

Corsi was out of the office today and could not be reached for comment.

The installation of the camera equipment to monitor the very room the April altercation is said to have taken place is also being criticized, including by two unions representing department employees.

Dispatcher's union representative Kevin Mckenna, of the American Federation Of State, County and Municipal Employees, said the union is exploring its options.

"The members are unhappy with it, they believe it's an invasion of their privacy," he said.

He declined to say if those options would involve legal intervention.

The Police Officers Union is also up in arms. Bethlehem Police Officers Union President Scott Anson said his members are concerned that there is apparently no framework in place to dictate how and when the footage will be used or reviewed. Also, he said, a break room for police officers is directly adjacent to the dispatcher office.

"Obviously, I have some privacy concerns with the [break room] and I have not seen the policy yet on what the criteria is for the chief to review the tape," he said.

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