Johnston School Committee approves body-worn cameras for police SROs


The Johnston School Committee voted unanimously to approve a proposal by the Johnston Police Department to equip officers in schools with body-worn cameras.

“A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Johnston School Department and Police Department, pertaining to the School Resource Officer (SRO) Program, is on the agenda for tonight’s school committee meeting,” Johnston Police Chief Mark A. Vieira said Tuesday afternoon. “The MOU also serves as an agreement between the police department and the school district addressing the use of body-worn cameras (BWC) by the SRO’s. Essentially, SRO’s will only be required to activate their BWC while in the performance of official police duties involving investigative or enforcement actions consistent with the department’s BWC policy.”

School solicitor William Conley Jr. told the School Committee Tuesday night, during their regular monthly meeting, that he had reviewed the MOU and had no objections.

“The BWC’s will not be turned on and recording during the regular course of the school day,” assured Vieira. “Furthermore, SRO BWC footage will not be used to support school disciplinary matters that do not constitute violations of the law.”

The topic stirred little public discussion at Tuesday night’s meeting.

“As you know the Johnston School Committee approved an MOU with the Johnston Police Department which included agreement on the Resource Officers wearing body cameras,” DiLullo said via email Wednesday morning. “This is an important action as it will help to eliminate any question of how situations play out when a resource officer is involved.”

Since practically everyone carries a miniature recording device with them at all times (their smartphones), the body-worn SRO cameras will be used to capture the officer’s perspective.

“As we know, students are recording in schools and when those videos are posted, they don't always show the complete recording of any concerning interactions,” DiLullo wrote. “The use of body cameras will protect students and our resource officers from false claims against them. It will give us an accurate picture of interactions when our officers are involved with students. I appreciate the Johnston Police Department's willingness to participate in this program as they are an integral part of our school community and we honor their integrity and service.”

In September, two Johnston High School students were arrested following an alleged assault on the school’s police department-assigned Resource Officer.

According to Vieira in September, “two disorderly students were placed under arrest.” No injuries were reported and the Resource Officer stayed on the JHS beat.

“The school resource officer and the involved juveniles did not sustain any injuries,” Vieira said in September. “The SRO was never out of work due to this incident.”


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