UPT Advocates for Police Body Cameras

UPT is pleased that the City of Rochester plans to deploy police-worm body cameras. We continue to urge citizen engagement in the policies surrounding use of the cameras and the data they produce.

UPT logo

December 4, 2015

Ms. Loretta C. Scott, President
City Council
City Hall, Room 301A
30 Church Street
Rochester, New York 14614-1265

Dear Ms. Scott,

In October 2014, my organization supported deployment of police-worn body cameras. We're of course pleased that this is moving ahead. I attended two of Council's recent public meetings about the details and came away with these impressions.

The police seem to be driving this process; they wrote the RFP; they chose the four candidate products; they seem to be compiling the policies that will govern the use of the cameras and the resulting video/audio. Heaven is in the details. I see no way that all the applicable points can be covered during public meetings, i.e., listed on the sheets that gathered the answers to the questions posed.

And for those who mistrust the police, I don't see how this process allays their concerns. The most recent national case is on the top of my mind – that of the Chicago police officer who shot a suspect 16 times, then the video was buried for a year. We can't let that happen here. Citizens need a reliable process to obtain video. Citizens need a meaningful role in incidents of alleged police overreach.

The good news is that I believe everyone will behave better when they know their actions are likely to be reviewed later on video. The concern is still whether the review will occur and whether it will be overly influenced by those who would benefit through diverting the process.

Urban Presbyterians Together is a coalition of the nine urban, Presbyterian Church (USA) congregations in Rochester with a total of about 2,000 members. The UPT Steering Committee asked me to write about this issue about which I'm personally passionate.

Jim Tiefenthal, Co-convener

Cc:

  • Lovely Warren; Mayor, Rochester New York
  • Michael Ciminelli; Chief, Rochester Police Department
  • Michael D. Mazzeo; President, Rochester Locust Club

 

On December 18, 2014, Rochester's mayor and chief of police, Lovely Warren and Michael Ciminelli, announced that Rochester police officers will be equipped with body cameras.

In a joint October 2014 meeting, pastors and non-clergy Urban Presbyterians Together leaders resolved to advocate for Rochester NY police to wear body cameras and wrote the following letter.

UPT logo

October 30, 2014

To:
Lovely Warren; Mayor, Rochester New York
Loretta Scott; President, Rochester City Council
Michael Ciminelli; Chief, Rochester Police Department
Michael D. Mazzeo; President, Rochester Locust Club

We write you as members of a ten-congregation coalition known as "Urban Presbyterians Together." Among other things, we are committed to seeking peace and justice for all citizens of Rochester.

We support calls within the community to equip the Rochester police force with body cameras. We believe the police should be able to produce a record of police-citizen interaction in the same way citizens now produce cell-phone video of the actions of the police.

Communities across the nation have implemented body cameras and have seen a reduction in citizen complaints. Chief Ron Miller of Topeka, Kansas shares that, "Everybody is on their best behavior when the cameras are running. The police, the public, everyone."

We believe that equipping the Rochester police force with body cameras would be a win-win practice that would bring this community closer to justice for all.

"For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought in the open, and every secret will be brought to light" (Mark 4:22).

Sincerely,

Urban Presbyterians Together

Urban Pastors

  • The Rev. Steve Allman, Calvary Saint Andrews and Laurelton United Presbyterian Churches
  • The Rev. Phil Davis, Lakeside Presbyterian Church
  • The Rev. Martha Langford, Third Presbyterian Church
  • The Rev. Tim Luddy, Brighton Presbyterian Church
  • The Rev. Martha Moler, Dewey Avenue Presbyterian Church
  • The Rev. Lynette Sparks, Third Presbyterian Church
  • The Rev. Deb Swift, South Presbyterian Church
  • The Rev. John Wilkinson, Third Presbyterian Church
  • The Rev. William Wilkinson, Trinity-Emmanuel Presbyterian Church
  • The Rev. Pat Youngdahl, Downtown United Presbyterian Church

Core Team Members

  • Mr. Dave Holliday
  • Ms. Karen Kingsbury, co-moderator
  • Mr. Don Pryor
  • Ms. Sue Tedesco
  • Mr. John Thomas
  • Mr. Jim Tiefenthal, co-moderator
  • Ms. Saara Totterman

 

4 Meigs Street, Rochester NY 14607, UrbanPresbyterians.org