Police board delays selection of next Lockport police chief

File photoLockport Police Department Interim Police Chief Steven Preisch. 

In the wake of Troy Hodge's death and calls for reform, Police Chief Steven Preisch has prepared a draft body camera policy for officers of Lockport Police Department that would mandate the cameras be used all the time.

That can only happen if new body cameras are acquired for the officers, however, Preisch said.

Hodge, 39, died after a June 16 encounter with police, and Hodge's supporters allege he was killed by the Tasers that an officer used to subdue him. Of two initial responding officers at the scene, one wore a body camera that fell off and the other officer did not have a body camera, according to Preisch. Niagara County Sheriff's deputies reportedly had their body cameras going when they responded to the scene. 

Residents voiced their concern about the lack of body camera footage at the June 19 Common Council meeting.

"One thing we were highly criticized for was our lack of body camera footage," Preisch said.

Currently, the only time LPD officers are required to have their body cameras operating is during traffic stops. The rest of the time, body cameras are activated at individual officers' discretion, Preisch said.

New body cameras will be needed if they're to be operated continuously, according to Preisch. Existing body cameras have low battery life and the department currently isn't prepared to handle increased video storage from them, he said.

The oldest in-service body camera is three years old. At the time of its purchase, the system was considered adequate, according to Preisch.

"When this system was purchased it was something that we could afford, and it was adequate because back when it was purchased, all the controversy (was) a lot of times on traffic stops," he said.

Preisch told the Police Board of Commissioners on Monday that he obtained several estimates for new body cameras.

The most costly option, $160,000 over a five-year period for 44 cameras from Axon Inc., includes an unlimited warranty and what Preisch called "all the bells and whistles," including automatic recording whenever an officer starts their patrol vehicle, or draws their service weapon or Taser. Off-site encrypted storage of the footage is part of the deal.

The least costly option, in which each body camera costs between $600 and $700, comes with a five-year warranty.

Police Commissioner Flora Hawkins said body cameras are worth the investment because of the reassurance they would give to the public regarding LPD.