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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

PGC Urges Senate to Increase Officer Safety

Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough today urged the state Senate to act quickly to pass legislation that would allow Wildlife Conservation Officers working for the Game Commission and Waterways Conservation Officers working for the state Fish and Boat Commission to wear body cameras in performance of their official duties.

The state House of Representatives overwhelmingly has supported House Bill 2178, which was sponsored by state Rep. Dan Moul, R-Adams County. The bill passed the House in June by a vote of 191-5.

Hough urged the Senate to follow suit.

“As most Pennsylvanians know, the fall hunting seasons are almost here, and our officers already have begun ramping up patrols to stop poaching activity and other illegal practices,” Hough said. “Mobile video-recording devices have been shown to make the jobs of law-enforcement officers safer, and a timely vote by Senators to allow our Wildlife Conservation Officers to wear the cameras now, as they enter their busiest time of year, would have an immediate impact with measurable results.

“I thank Senators in advance for making officer safety a high priority,” Hough said.

The use of body cameras already has been expressly approved by the state Legislature for other police agencies statewide. The devices, which can be clipped onto an officer’s uniform, are similar to the dashboard cameras installed in most law-enforcement vehicles. The mobile cameras are considered especially suitable for Wildlife Conservation Officers, who often patrol while on foot.

The mere presence of cameras can quickly defuse what might otherwise become hostile situations, and cameras often capture valuable evidence that increases the chances of successful prosecutions.

The Game Commission in 2012 purchased body cameras for its officers, and officers used them briefly in the field before the law was changed to provide that only state and municipal police officers could use body cameras.

Moul, whose legislative district includes the area of Adams County where Wildlife Conservation Officer David L. Grove was shot and killed by a poacher in 2010, sponsored the legislation as a way to increase officer safety.

The Senate could vote on the bill as early as next week.

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