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Local News

Pa. state police to expedite body camera rollout after Philly official’s excessive force claim

(Credit: Amanda Berg/ Pennsylvania Capital-Star)

Peter Hall, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
March 5, 2024

After a Philadelphia city official accused a state trooper of excessive force, the head of the Pennsylvania State Police told lawmakers on Monday that the agency would step up deployment of body cameras.

State Police Commissioner Christopher Paris told members of the state House Appropriations Committee that a full investigation is underway into the arrest Saturday of Celena Morrison, director of the Philadelphia Office of LGBT Affairs, and her husband Darius McLean.

Video of the arrests taken by Morrison has circulated on social media and raised questions about the conduct of both the couple and the state trooper. 

The trooper involved has been placed on administrative duty pending the completion of the investigation, which will be forwarded to the Philadelphia district attorney’s office for review, Paris said.

Paris said troopers in the southeast part of the state, including Philadelphia, would receive and begin using body cameras within three to four weeks, but none are currently in use by state police in the city.

Among questions state police officials received during Monday’s hearing on the agency’s budget was about the use of body cameras and what funding the agency has requested. State police said the trooper involved in the arrests Saturday was not wearing a camera. 

Paris said the agency has embarked on the deployment of body cameras as the dashboard cameras in state police vehicles reach the end of their lives. Technology challenges drove up the cost from $4.4 million to about $10 million a year.

“We are still committed to doing it with the support of the legislature and the governor’s office. And as such, we’ve moved forward with a pilot program this summer that began in the south central part of the state,” Paris said.

Paris said both vehicle cameras and body cameras rely on modems in police vehicles to transmit video data to a server for storage. With a 45,000-square-mile coverage area, state police faced “logistical hurdles” that municipal police departments have not, he said. 

Paris told lawmakers that the contract for the body camera system was awarded shortly before the end of Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration.

“I don’t think that we’re in any delay,” Paris said, adding that funding has been available and the legislature, State Troopers Association and the administration have been supportive. “The issues that we’ve had have been caused by logistics and making the IT work.”

State police did not identify Morrison or McLean in a news release about the incident but Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker confirmed Morrison’s identity in a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

According to state police, a trooper stopped a gray Infiniti sedan for traffic violations Saturday morning on Interstate 76. Before the trooper could contact the driver of the Infiniti, a green Dodge pulled over behind the trooper’s vehicle. 

The driver of the Dodge became “verbally combative” when the trooper approached, refused orders and resisted arrest. The driver of the Infiniti interfered with the trooper’s attempt to arrest the other driver, state police said. 

Both drivers were taken into custody but were released without charges, a state police spokesperson told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.