EAST BRADY – Officers with the New Bethlehem Police Department are now equipped with body cameras.
“All officers are now wearing body cameras,” New Bethlehem Police Chief Robert Malnofsky Jr. told East Brady Borough Council members in his report during their June 4 meeting. “We have them and they are in use for any interactions with the public.”
Although municipal and state police departments are allowed to use audio and visual recording devices such as body cameras per Pennsylvania Act 22 of 2017, “public disclosure of this footage is exempt from the state’s Right-to-Know law,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
This means, Malnofsky explained, that anyone from the public wanting to view footage captured on the cameras must follow the protocol outlined by the state.
“The main thing is that an individual must be directly involved in the incident to get the body camera footage,” he said, noting that more information on the guidelines for the release of video footage can be obtained through the NBPD or the state’s website. “That’s a state requirement.”
The state requirement also holds that “if a recording contains criminal evidence or information that relates to a current investigation, a victim or is confidential, and that information cannot be reasonably redacted, then the default is to deny release. The judge or prosecutor with jurisdiction may allow release in those cases only if it is in the public interest to do so.”
“[Someone] just can’t get it [the recording] because their buddy got arrested and they want to see what he did,” Malnofsky added.
In other business at last Tuesday’s meeting, the council passed a resolution regarding the disposition of audio recordings from borough council meetings.
Council president Barb Mortimer reported that East Brady Borough secretary Susan Buechele recently attended a seminar for municipal secretaries. One item discussed at the class was the fate of audio recordings often used by borough secretaries to create the minutes following council meetings.
“Once the minutes are approved it’s recommended that you destroy the recording,” Buechele said, noting that from the moment of approval, the written minutes serve as the meeting record.
Explaining that the borough records the minutes of each meeting, Mortimer presented council members with a resolution that states the borough’s intent to use an audio device to create audio recordings of council meetings “strictly and solely for the purpose of assisting the municipal or agency secretary with the creation of public meeting minutes.” As soon as the minutes are approved, the recording will be destroyed “and will not become part of the municipality’s permanent record.”
Resolution 2019-01 passed unanimously by the four council members present at the meeting — councilmen Bill John, Kenny Crawford and Joe Hillwig were absent.