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ON DEMAND: THIS AMERICAN LIFE tribute to the 10 killed in the Tops Market shootings (avail. Sunday after 8pm)

Another argument for police body cameras

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Sheriff Joe Gerace in a video explaining the hsitory of the Chautauaqua County Jail.

For outgoing Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace, he is leaving behind a very high-tech department with an array of cameras recording official encounters with citizens. The department is the largest police agency of several in the county whose officers are equipped with body cameras.

When a road deputy hits county roads, that deputy has a body camera and a dashboard camera in the patrol car. The car has a GPS locater and portable radios carry GPS locaters.

Inside the county jail, there are 300 cameras monitoring what is going on. The sheriff said those field cameras can help District Attorney Patrick Swanson, by showing what deputies do. They help clear the innocent and help convict the guilty.

"It absolutely portrays what is recorded, the actual event, and not what somebody is claiming to have happened. So it's advantageous," he said. A lot of times that's protecting my employees from false allegations."

He said there are often several deputies with several body cams watching events from different angles, in a world where the public and juries expect video.

"The last time we used the camera to exonerate a deputy, he was commended for the way that he handled the situation when the people complaining were trying to get him demoted," Gerace said, "and just the opposite, because he handled it in just exemplary fashion."

He said the amount of data is staggering.

"One of the most difficult things is storing and retrieving information and that's something that doesn't get thought about very much when you're talking about body cams, but you're talking about massive amounts of data," Gerace said, "and then when there's retrieval, somebody has to be responsible for retrieving it and redacting it if it involves other persons."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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