MIDDLETOWN, Conn. — The new commander of the Connecticut State Police expects all troopers to be using body cameras by the end of the year, two years after they were supposed to begin using them under state law.
Col. George Battle talked about body cameras, his priorities and other issues in an interview with The Associated Press this week. Battle, a 30-year state police veteran, began his new job March 1, succeeding Col. Alaric Fox, who left to become police chief in Enfield.
A state law approved in 2015 that addressed police use of force required troopers to begin using the cameras by July 1, 2016, if they’re supplied with the equipment. State officials approved $2 million in bonding for body cameras for state police.
Battle and other officials acknowledged the process to implement cameras, including choosing which camera to use and how to store the video from nearly 1,000 troopers, has taken a long time and has included field trials with multiple camera models.
Battle said officials are now finalizing a decision on a camera model. After a contract is signed with the manufacturer, he expects body cameras to be phased in over six to eight months.
“That’s certainly a big change that we’re looking forward to,” he said. “It offers a lot of transparency into what our folks are doing every day.”
Police departments around the state, including state police, have been identified as stopping minority motorists at disproportionate rates compared with white drivers, according to Central Connecticut State University researchers who analyzed statewide traffic stop data.
Battle, who serves on the advisory board that oversees the traffic stop data collection, said state police officials have been working with university analysts to address any problems, but did not offer specifics.
“It’s an ongoing process that we continue to work with them on,” he said. “I think we’re all interested in the same end result of just ensuring that our policing efforts are fair and impartial.”
Battle, 50, who grew up in Cheshire, said he isn’t planning any major changes at the department.
“The mission of the state police certainly remains the same and focused on public safety on our highways and in the rural communities that we have primary jurisdiction for,” he said.
Other priorities include hiring more staff and implementing recommendations from a report that analyzed the state police response to the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 children and six educators were killed, Battle said. The report recommended improvements to protecting crime scene integrity, dealing with victims’ families and other issues.
Battle’s boss, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner Dora Schriro, and the state police union president, Sgt. Andrew Matthews, both said Battle is a respected leader within the department.
“He knows how to treat people with dignity and respect,” Matthews said. “And I think he knows how to be fair and impartial, which is what we need from our command staff.”