More than 30 officers over in the 22nd District, which is headquartered at 17th Street and Montgomery Avenue in North Philadelphia, began wearing body cameras today as part of a pilot program, according to police.
The officers, all of whom volunteered for the program, will test six different brands of on-body cameras. The tests will begin on the day-work tours and move on to night-shift tours as the six-month pilot program continues.
"During this initiative, officers will evaluate the performance of each body camera, as well as test the process of collecting and storing captured footage in an evidence management system," a news release read.
At the end of the six months, the department will make a recommendation as to how Philly can "implement a long term, permanent program," police said.
"The Philadelphia Police Department has taken another step in the direction of transparency and building community trust here in Philadelphia," the release said.
This is not the first time the department has tested on-officer cameras, though it is the first time that I can recall them putting out a release about it. There has been a new push for on-officer video cameras nationwide in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo., and the resulting protests.
Back in 2012, I interviewed the co-founder of TASER about their on-officer cameras. At the time, police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said the department was getting a half dozen to test.
"I see some benefits in terms of if there is a complaint that occurs at a later time you do have some very powerful video evidence as to what took place," Ramsey said at the time. "The disadvantage is it's a pretty expensive proposition when you're talking about a department our size."
But, if the cameras could put a dent in the number of civil-rights lawsuits filed against police each year, it may be very well worth the expense. Last year alone, the city paid out $14 million in settlements for civil-rights lawsuits filed against police - that's up from $8 million in 2012.