SEPTA tests clip-on cameras that record everything officers do

Late Night Subway Service
Transit police look on as passengers exit the train at the Frankford Transportation Center during the first night of SEPTA's late night subway service in Philadelphia, Saturday June 14, 2014. (For the Daily News/ Joseph Kaczmarek)

SEPTA police are field testing video cameras that clip onto officers' shirts and record everything they do, officials announced Tuesday.

The camera, which connects to an officer's handheld police radio, records video and audio, and can take photos, said SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel.

"The benefit of that is that every contact that an officer has will then be video- and audiotaped. It's a tremendous benefit for police, a tremendous benefit for the public," Nestel said.

"We're experimenting. We're seeing if it's conducive for our environment and if it's beneficial for transit policing in general," he said.

The cameras, by Safety Innovations, are about the size of a cellphone. For the field test, they will be carried by three officers.

"We're hoping it will reduce the number of use-of-force incidents, and we're hoping it will reduce the number of complaints. We're hoping that it will help us in investigating complaints and showing that officers did exactly what they were supposed to do," Nestel said.

He said the cameras could cut down on the court overtime costs "because we'll have video of the incident, and an officer won't be necessary for court."

Nestel said the model being tested costs about $300 per camera - but that others cost as much as $1,500.

He said he did not know of any transit agency police using the cameras. He said departments in Pittsburgh and California had tested the practice.