Wildlife Conservation Officers and Waterways Conservation Officers (WCOs) in Pennsylvania now have the option to wear body cameras in the line of duty, says state Representative Dan Moul (R-Adams).
“I will argue every day of the week that a WCO is the same as any police officer,” Moul said, referring to a newly enacted state law that allows municipal police officers to wear body cameras. “Their duties are just a little different. The training is virtually the same.”
Rep. Moul is the author of House Bill 2178, which amended the Game and Wildlife Code, changing the definition of Game Commission WCOs so that they fall under the category of “law enforcement officers.”
Changing the definition would protect WCOs under the Pennsylvania Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act, which allows body cameras to be worn by “law enforcement officers.”
HB 2178 passed with unanimous support in both the state House and the state Senate at the end of the 2013 2014 session and signed by the governor.
Rep. Moul believes that wearing body cameras can help bring clarity to complicated cases handled by WCOs.
“You get actual footage of an incident, you don’t have to rely so much on what one person or the other said. It will all be caught on tape.”
The legislation is personal for Moul and those who live in his district. In 2010, Pennsylvania Game Commission WCO David Grove was shot and killed while investigating a poaching complaint November 11 in Freedom Township, Adams County.
“I’m not saying that a body cam would have stopped [Officer Grove’s death], but if [the shooter] would have known he was being recorded there is a possibility that Dave would still be alive today and this young man wouldn’t be on death row,” Moul said.
WCOs currently have dashboard cameras mounted in their patrol vehicles. But Moul stressed that those are not enough.
“WCOs do most of their work away from the vehicle – in the woods, along the streams. It’s kind of silly to have something mounted in the truck when they don’t do their work near the truck. It should be on their shoulder.”
All WCOs in the commonwealth will have the opportunity to wear body cameras after completing a training course in proper protocol, run by the Pennsylvania State Police Department.