SEPTA arming transit cops with secret body cameras

SEPTA is arming its police force with more equipment to catch more criminals.

“Another tool for cheese sandwich delivery,” said SEPTA Transit Police Chief Thomas Nestel.

Nestel, who attaches the hashtag #cheesesandwich (which represents the meal given to detainees in the department’s lockup) to many of his @TNestel3 Tweets, announced Tuesday that his officer’s are testing new surveillance cameras.

The cameras, which capture both audio and video, are built into the officer’s radio microphone, which is clipped to the officer’s chest.

“That’s nice for the cops because we already have enough crap on our belts,” he said. “The Batman-like utility belt only has so much room and integrating (cameras) into police equipment we already have is nice.

There are a lot of cameras positioned within SEPTA stations as well as its trains and vehicles, “But none of them have sound,” Nestel said. “Often what we find is on the platforms we’re taking a 40-foot view of what occurs. This is a view 2-feet from the person you’re talking with.”

SEPTA Transit Police are testing the devices for 60 days. These special radio’s aregoing into effect this week and will be outfitted on three patrol officers.

If SEPTA decides to purchase the cameras — for which it would seek grant funding — not all of its 275 officers will be armed with the special radios. Only about 200 officers on patrol would receive the device.

“We’re experimenting,” Nestel said. “We’re seeing if it’s conducive for our environment and if it’s beneficial for transit policing in general.”

Nestel hopes the cameras will:

  • Reduce the number of “Use of force” incidents
  • Reduce the number of complaints
  • Help investigate complaints

“And reduce court overtime because we’ll have video of the incident and an officer won’t be necessary for court,” Nestel said. “And we’re hoping it will increase the number of guilty pleas.”

Follow Tommy Rowan on Twitter:@tommyrowan

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