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With most officers equipped with body cams, Transit Police move on to dash cams

Mike Desmond

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Transit Police are close to having all officers equipped with body cameras, as the force deals with an avalanche of recorded images.

More and more police agencies have gone to the cameras worn by officers. Transit Police Chief George Gast said it is good for officers because the cameras can show what was done properly and can be used as evidence if something happens to a cop on the beat.

Gast said most officers, around 75%, now have body cameras.

"All of the cameras that we have in stock have been issued and we have recently put out a new Request for Proposal to look at some new cameras. It has been a very successful program, but like anything else electronic, technology keeps changing and there are some better ones out there."

Gast said that is why the force is gradually getting cameras mounted on dashboards of all cars, something that is far more expensive than the body cameras.

"Cost of the dash cameras was a little bit prohibitive to me because our primary mission is not traffic," Gast said. "We're not making car stops all the time, but since we've gone to the dash cameras, they've been proven to be very, very valuable and we're in the process of putting dash cams in our entire fleet."

Gast said he does not have a member of his 83-officer force dedicated to monitoring camera output. However, that may change under new state rules governing discovery for the courts, since the authority has cameras everywhere and image collection can take time.

"The whole NFTA, the whole authority is very camera heavy," Gast said. "We have cameras on the buses. We have cameras on the trains. We have cameras in the stations. We've got over 200 cameras at the airport. We've got cameras in the bus terminal. So all of those also fall into the same category, so it's quite a daunting undertaking for the department."

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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