Game Commission thanks Senate for support on safety measure

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Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough today thanked state senators for their unanimous support on an initiative to improve safety for Wildlife Conservation Officers.

The Senate on Wednesday voted 48-0 in favor of House Bill 2178, which 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.

Because the bill was amended, it now heads back to the state House of Representatives for approval. The House approved the original bill by a vote of 191-5.

While Wednesday was the final day of the House’s session, representatives have added an extra day to the session in order to approve bills requiring a final vote. They are scheduled to meet Monday.

Hough applauded the support the state’s legislators have demonstrated.

“With Wednesday’s vote by the Senate, both branches of the General Assembly have shown overwhelming support for this initiative, which will make the jobs of Wildlife Conservation Officers safer,” Hough said. “I thank them for their consideration and the votes they so thoughtfully cast, as the legislation takes yet another step toward final approval.”

House Bill 2178 was sponsored by state Rep. Dan Moul, R-Adams County, 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. Moul said he sponsored the legislation as a way to increase officer safety.

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.

The agency would be ready to equip its officers with cameras as soon as the approval process is complete.