Minutes of the meeting of September 30, 2008
The Newtown Township Technology Committee met on September 29, 2008 in the lower level meeting room. In attendance were: Chairman Edward Lipski and members Jim Bowe, Robert Bowers, John Davis and Harry Stevens. Also in attendance was Newtown Borough Resident John Leonard.
Call to Order
Mr. Lipski called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
Approval of Minutes
Mr. Lipski moved to approve the minutes of September 9, 2008. Mr. Davis seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Police Department Technology
Detective Charles Palko, Jr.was in attendance to discuss the use of technology by the Police Department. He said that the Township does not currently have wireless access from the Police computers. He said that currently the Department is using a computer laptop system called Data 911 in the squad cars, although not all cars are equipped with them. These computers have the capability of wireless access. The goal is to purchase five additional computers in the next budget cycle.
The Department has been looking at video cameras with audio for the squad cars. The cameras are activated either by the officer or automatically when the lights and/or siren are turned on or the back door of the car is opened. They have an 8 gb memory, which is between 12 and 14 hours of video. If the station house were equipped with wireless access, the squad car could pull in to the station and download the contents of the camera in about one minute. Without the wireless access, the officer would have to remove the memory card and bring it inside to download.
Detective Palko reviewed the benefits of the cameras: to record traffic stops when circumstances are disputed, to record events, and to alter officer behavior, in that knowing he is being recorded reminds the officer to do everything “by the book”. The camera is always working, but does not begin to record until activated, so that, if, for example, an officer witnesses an accident and turns on the camera via lights or siren, the camera recording is backed up 90 seconds, providing a recording of he accident. There is no policy right now on retention of records, but between 4 and 12 months, depending on the contents, seems foreseeable for court purposes.
The camera system being considered includes a dedicated server with purchase. There was some brief discussion about recording audio; Detective Palko said that it is permitted in Bucks County right now, but those being recorded must be informed by officers immediately.
Detective Palko reviewed the benefits of wireless access to the Data 911 laptops in the patrol cars. He said that the officers could immediately connect with J-Net for verification of information during encounters with the public, for example to confirm previous encounters with a person or to verify drivers license information. The officers could also complete incident reports themselves. This would eliminate some secretarial work. The officers could make better use of a program called “Visual Alert” which would allow officers to access arrest photos and incident reports, lists of stolen property and other evidence. The Department would benefit greatly by adding wireless access, even if it were just in the immediate vicinity of the station/municipal complex, for both the Data 911 computers and for the video cameras.
Detective Palko briefly discussed the Township’s use of cameras around the municipal complex. The Township also currently can access some of the cameras around the high school for monitoring, and in emergencies, the school could permit complete access to the cameras. With wireless in the cars, it would be possible to access the cameras in the cars, not only inside the station. This could be very useful in certain emergency situations. Surveillance cameras could also be added to the parks.
Mr. Stevens suggested that other video cameras being used in the private sector could also be accessed by the police; this could possibly be a service offered for a fee.
Mr. Stevens provided copies of a draft survey for Township employees on their use of technology. He asked the members to review the draft in advance of the October meeting.
Mr. Lipski reported that at the Board of Supervisors meeting, both Township Manager Joseph Czajkowski and Board Chairman Tom Jirele indicated that this committee might be asked for input on technology for the expansion of the municipal complex, particularly on whether to have wired or wireless connection. All agreed that both should be available.
Mr. Bowe said that he would like to committee to consider internet cameras for the new meeting room in order to provide internet access to meetings other than the Board of Supervisors televised meetings.
Other discussions were tabled because of the late hour.
The meeting adjourned at 9:45 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary