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City Police To Get Upgraded Body Cameras, In Hopes It Will Add Transparency

Ariel Worthy
90.5 WESA
Police Chief Scott Schubert says new body cameras will help with transparency from the police bureau.

Pittsburgh City Council gave preliminary approval on Wednesday to spending more than $10 million on upgraded body cameras and stun guns for city police. 

The new cameras and tasers will be distributed not just to uniformed officers, but detectives and other staff.

The department will enter into a five-year contract with Axon, which makes the body cameras. 

Police Chief Scott Schubert told council the new cameras will automatically activate when officers pull out their weapons or tasers, and will also automatically activate other officers' body cameras within a 35-foot radius. That will help provide multiple camera angles for an incident.

The upgrades will also allow command staff to pull up camera footage and see what is happening in real time. Footage will upload when officers recharge their cameras; [olice will also be able to upload footage from the field if it is needed immediately. 

Schubert said the cameras will help the department operate more transparently.  

"This covers everything," he said. "The officer doesn't have to worry about it; they just need to do their job and allow this to help with whether the investigative portion, or even if there's complaints." 

"It's the right thing to do," Schubert added. "It helps protect the officers, it helps protect the community, it helps protect the city."

Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said the new purchase will also standardize police equipment. Currently the department uses multiple types of body cameras.

The new tasers will also allow officers to make multiple shots on a single cartridge. The existing system requires changing cartridges after each use.

"If you miss you have to re-engage with the thing," said Schubert. "This one, it offers multiple shots. So ... you can take another one without having to hurry up and grab another cartridge. ... It's more accurate, which makes it safer for the officers and the public as well."  

The department expects to have the new equipment by January.