By Todd Cohen
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Thanks to the Greensboro Police Foundation, the Greensboro Police Department is a lot closer to becoming the first major police department in the U.S. to equip its entire patrol division with cameras that officers wear on their bodies to capture exactly what they see.
After the Police Department earlier this year used nearly $150,000 from a federal stimulus grant to buy 125 cameras for half its patrol division, the Police Foundation this spring launched a campaign to buy cameras for the rest of the division.
The camera campaign by the Foundation, which was formed in 2012 to raise money for the Department, now has raised $115,000 from businesses, foundations and individuals, says Frank Mascia, president of the Foundation and president of the Guilford Battleground Company, a group that supports Guilford Courthouse National Military Park.
Gifts to the Foundation include $25,000 from CPI Security, a Charlotte-based company that installs alarm systems for residences and businesses, $15,000 from Cone Health System, $10,000 from Lorillard and $25,000 over five years from Oliver Lloyd, president of real estate developer LivLaur and a member of the Foundation’s board of directors.
The mission of the Foundation is to boost Greensboro’s economy by promoting public safety through support of the Police Department, says Mascia, former CEO of Physicians Health Plan and then president and CEO in the Carolinas for United Healthcare after it acquired the managed care plan in 1996.
The Foundation grew out of a conversation Mascia had in March 2011 with Greensboro Police Chief Ken Miller.
The Foundation initially raised $25,000 to establish a memorial fund the Department uses to buy and send flowers when officers’ family members die; to hold quarterly recognition luncheons for police officers; and to support the use of billboards to help the Department recruit minorities.
Later, with unspent funds remaining from a federal grant the Department had secured to recruit new officers, and with the approval of the federal government, the Department launched its effort to equip the 250 officers in its patrol division with the body-worn cameras.
The cameras are small and lightweight, worn on eyeglasses or epaulets or in other ways, and designed to provide an objective look at what the officers see, serving as an “independent witness” or “third eye” in addition to statements from the officer, suspect and witnesses, Mascia says.
They also can help reduce meritless complaints, help streamline civil and criminal proceedings, help with officer training, and build community trust through “greater transparency,” he says.
The cameras, already used in some cities, are expected to become standard equipment for police departments, he says.
In addition to the purchase of the cameras and other specialized equipment and technology, the Foundation supports leadership training and development at the Police Department; officer safety, wellness and morale; crime prevention and crime fighting; and community partnerships and advocacy.
The Foundation raised $35,000 from United Healthcare to buy exercise equipment for the new headquarters the Department occupied in April, says Mascia.
Operating with an annual budget of $34,000 and a part-time administrator, the Police Department Foundation aims to raise $200,000 this year through contributions and the sale of Police Department bags, hats, t-shirts and other merchandise on its website.
“We hope to make our city safer,” Mascia says, “by helping our Police Department reach its goal of being a national model of exceptional policing.”