Chief Deppen, new vehicles, body camera system among changes implemented

City of Warren Police Chief Brandon Deppen is coming up quickly on one year on the post.

He spoke at Warren City Council’s Monday work session about being positioned into the top job in the department.

And that includes a new body camera system that’s been online for just a couple weeks.

Deppen started by outlining changes in the department since he took the job last December – hiring two new officers which “skewed” overtime for the year “a little bit,” as well as the appointment of a new sergeant and community service officer, positions Deppen held prior to his promotion.

In addition to replacing two vehicles, he said the department made a change to eight hour and 32 minute shifts.

“It’s working well,” he said. “The officers like it. It gave us the opportunity to do a full-time midnight shift.”

He highlighted recent active shooter training sessions held in conjunction with the Warren County School District that were “very beneficial to everybody” as well as the ongoing accreditation efforts originally implemented by former chief and current District Justice Ray Zydonik.

“It’s a great program,” Deppen said. “It helps us guide the officers on what they should do…. It’s been very beneficial to us.”

He said that the City of Warren department, Erie police department and the department in North East are the three municipal departments accredited in this corner of the state.

Council members asked about the use of force guidelines as well as the response needed for the recent motorcycle rally in town.

But the focus of the discussion was the department’s new body camera system which has been live for just two weeks.

Deppen said the new body-worn cameras replace a system that used to be in the department’s patrol cars but was unreliable and didn’t have a body-worn camera component.

He said the system that the city has implemented is the newer model of what the Pennsylvania State Police have been using for many years.

“It’s tried and true,” he said. “The whole system is integrated within itself.”

The camera in the patrol car and the body camera sync together, the patrol car has a traditional camera as well as a panoramic camera that can be turned. While the system is always recording in the background, Deppen said the system will activate in any number of scenarios – the officer turns the patrol lights on, if the car exceeds the speed limit or if it is in a crash, for examples.

“It’s very user friendly,” he said. “The body-worn camera is the microphone for the system (and) syncs itself to the video. We have retention periods of 90 days.

“We had to make some adjustments to the budget for this year,” he said, noting that additional servers were needed to bring the system online.

“The interesting thing, there was this big push for body cameras. (There has) been this negative (perception) about law enforcement. Really, what it has proven, we’ve been doing a great job across the US.”

Deppen said the cost of the system was $42,000 with an additional $28,000 in computer upgrades to make it happen.

“Some of our servers are dying,” he said, noting that some other records management issues were addressed in the camera upgrade. “It was needed.”

City Manager Nancy Freenock said this has “been a major improvement” and has “been a huge investment and a lot of work but well worth it.”

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