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Elma Police officers could soon be mandated to wear cameras

ELMA — Elma police officers may soon be mandated to wear cameras on their person as they go about their job.

A new contract approved by the Elma City Council on Monday and ratified by the Elma Police Officers Association calls for the creation of a new policy regarding the use of personal officer cameras.

“The purpose of the policy is to clarify when and how such cameras should be used,” wrote labor attorney Scott Snyder, who represents the city.

Police Chief Jeff Troumbley said that some police officers already wear the tiny cameras, located on their shirts. The city purchased them a couple of years back. But some officers have balked at the idea without a clear personnel policy in place.

“It’s been strictly voluntary,” Troumbley said.

Besides using the cameras to prove their cases in court, they’ve also been used to address residents complaining about officer duties.

“The video and audio usually prove our officers are nothing but professional and eliminates the complaints rather quickly,” the chief adds.

Troumbley says he has pushed for the use of cameras as a means of protecting his officers more than anything.

Meantime, the contract approved Monday during the city council increases wages for all officers by 2 percent for calendar years 2014, 2015 and 2016.

An additional 1 percent boost is given to officers who stay with the force for 15 years. One percent longevity bonuses are already given at the five and 10-year mark.

Officers who serve as the evidence technician, field training officer and firearms instructor would also get a 1 percent premium boost and the contract language for police officers driving their vehicles home has changed. It used to be that officers could only take their cars home if they live within seven miles of the Elma city limits. Now, officers can take their car home if they live even further away so long as they get permission from the chief, the city council and the bargaining unit is notified.

The contract also contains language guaranteeing an extra $50 per month into a health savings account for each officer should a countywide law enforcement tax increase be approved. Local police chiefs have been talking about a potential sales tax increase for years with the funding to go toward criminal justice programs for the county and local cities. The contract language states that if the voters approve the tax increase, it’ll mean a small pay day for at least the officers in the city of Elma. The provision only kicks in if the tax is approved.

Troumbley said he didn’t know how much the contract will cost the city of Elma. Clerk-Treasurer Diana Easton says she still needs to crunch the numbers.

Council members asked no questions about the contract during a public session. However, they did meet during a closed-door executive session for a half hour to get a briefing by Snyder during the middle of the meeting.

The council has conducted executive sessions related to the contract for the past few months.