State College

‘Another tool on the tool belt.’ State College police now equipped with body cameras

State College police officers began wearing body cameras Friday, after nearly a year of research, policy development and training, borough police Lt. Greg Brauser said Tuesday.

The State College Police Department is now one of four departments in Centre County that use body cameras. Ferguson, Patton and Spring townships each implemented the cameras in 2018.

Bellefonte, Penn State and state police remain without the cameras, though all have expressed a desire to add or research the cameras.

State College’s first major step toward implementing the cameras was a one-month pilot program in the fall of 2018. The test went well, Brauser said, and the agency requested 36 body cameras in the borough’s 2019 budget.

Borough Council approved the purchase of 20 body cameras for $21,100 in the 2019 budget. Car installation, software, licensing, charging stations and shipping brought the total cost to $33,025, Brauser said.

The department plans to request additional cameras in the 2020 budget, Chief John Gardner said Monday after the borough council meeting.

The department originally planned to deploy the body cameras Aug. 12, but was able to work ahead of schedule after officers received online and in-house policy-based training, Gardner said.

“Arts Fest was here and we thought, ‘What better way to run a test on our own in earnest?’ ” Gardner said. “Our officers loved having them. ... It’s just another tool on the tool belt. It’s not what we see as a panacea, where it’s a solution for all our problems, but it’s just another tool.”

After a borough police officer fatally shot Osaze Osagie in March, Centre County residents called for the release of body camera footage from the incident — though it never existed. The shooting was justified, District Attorney Bernie Cantorna said.

An internal investigation into the shooting is ongoing and the officer remains on administrative leave, Gardner said. The two other officers who were present at the shooting returned to work in April and are on full duty, Brauser said.

Centre Daily Times reporter Sarah Paez contributed to this article.

Bret Pallotto primarily reports on courts and crime for the Centre Daily Times. He grew up in Lewistown and graduated from Lock Haven University.