Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $140,000)
In conjunction with the Criminal Justice Council (CJC), the Dover Police Department (PD) is seeking funding from the BJA to implement a new Body Worn Camera (BWC) Program for use by 70 of its 106 Officers. The requested funding will enhance Officer Safety, leverage digital multimedia evidence for public safety purposes, promote transparency and accountability across the Dover PD organizational structure and project it to the community they serve. Although the Dover City Council overwhelming supports the implementation of a BWC Program, funding is limited, so the department seeks to purchase 70 cameras to equip only Operations Division units with direct citizen interaction.
In recent years, Dover Police Officers have responded daily to crime in a city plagued by gang and gun violence and suffering homicide rates well above the national average. A sharp spike resulted in overall violent crime, drug dealing, and weapons offenses. Most alarmingly, homicides increased during the 2017-2020 period from 4 homicides in 2017 to 9 in 2020, making the homicide rate 23.6 per 100,000 people. This is unsettling for a small city that had been averaging 1.4 homicides per year since 1985.
In 2020, Dover PD determined much of Dover’s crime is related to gangs and their illicit drug trade and that the majority of the nine recorded homicides could be traced to the 2019 surge in gang activity. In response to this, with support from regional partners, a successful multi-agency taskforce effort dubbed Operation Rise-N-Shyne was deployed to identify and arrest the key individuals controlling the gangs. However, body worn cameras would have provided a more complete accounting of the events and supported better transparency of the activities.
Dover PD is negotiating with a vendor for this purchase that offers cloud-based data storage in a bundle package. This allows software and equipment to be updated more easily, and arranged with the Delaware State Department of Technology access for the vendor to enter into the criminal justice portals.
Goals for the project are: 1. Promote accountability and transparency in the community we serve and within Dover PD; 2. Reduce overall civil liability for the City of Dover and reduce overall complaints of misconduct by Dover PD officers; 3. Create a robust training program for both officers and citizens on BWC; 4. Increase Digital Multimedia Evidence used as evidence in criminal trials.