'You're Being Recorded': Body Cameras May Be Coming Soon To A City Near You

Mar 2, 2016


In 2016, SEPTA police officers began wearing body cameras that measure about an inch square and clip onto uniform collars. It can be turned on and off and used with or without audio.
Credit Emma Lee / WHYY

Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay can't be with all of his officers, all the time. While they're driving their beat, responding to calls and policing the city, they're on their own. Negative reports, either by the officers or about the officers, are often he-said, she-said cases.

But that could be changing. Pittsburgh is one of five cities in Pennsylvania that received federal Department of Justice funding to outfit their officers with body cameras. The small cameras, worn on the officer's uniform, record interactions between police officers and the community.

Pittsburgh currently has a pilot program of 25 officers equipped with body cameras.

McLay says the technology helps with "obtaining strong video evidence for our work in the court system, and allows us to show what officers engaged in while in situations in the community."

In September, the city received $250,000 from the DOJ, which they will match with city funds. Allentown, Carlisle, Johnstown and the Central Bucks Regional Police Department also received grant money.

Would Pittsburgh have been able to afford body cameras otherwise?

"Likely not," said McLay. "The equipment is not inexpensive. But there are a lot of backside costs too: the data storage, processing the video evidence, processing requests for that video evidence. We still don't have a firm grasp on all the potential downstream costs."

Read more of this report at the site of our partner, Keystone Crossroads