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Police Body Camera Details Withheld Pending Contract Vote


    Under the terms of a tentative contract agreement, Springfield could be the first large city in Massachusetts where police officers are outfitted with body-worn cameras.  

    Because the proposed contract has not yet been voted on by members of the union that represents the city’s roughly 400 police officers, Springfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri, who met with members of the City Council Public Safety Committee this week, could not say when cameras would become standard issue equipment.

    "I am happy the union agreed to the tentative agreement and I am cautiously optimistic that we will be moving forward," said Barbieri.

     Labor Relations Director William Mahoney said the contract would not be a public document until after it is ratified by members of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers (IBPO) Local 364.   It would then have to be approved by the City Council to go into effect.

    Because Barbieri said he could not publically discuss language contained in the contract, he could not share details about plans for Springfield police to use body-worn cameras.

    News that police had tentatively agreed to use body cameras, as well as carry Narcan to reverse opioid overdoses, and adhere to city guidelines for using personal social media accounts, was contained in a press release issued last week by the office of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno.

    It quoted Sarno describing the proposed contract as “landmark.”

    Barbieri has long been a proponent of body cameras.

    " There is a plethora of video out there already now, but this will  allow another perspective, and while it won't eliminate police misconduct it will allow us to resolve those issues much more rapidly," explained Barbieri.

    If the police officers vote to ratify the contract, the police department would go through the standard procurement process to purchase the body cameras and related equipment and software, and perhaps hire a consultant to help set up the program, said Barbieri.

    "We are already working on the guidelines for when officers will be allowed to use their cameras and when they won't," said Barbieri.

    Several Springfield City Councilors have called for the use of body cameras by the police, including Council President Orlando Ramos, who said he is glad it may soon become a reality.

    "I am hopeful that it is  a fact and we will be happy with the language in terms of how the body cameras will be utilized and who will have access to the information," said Ramos.

          The proposed contract also reportedly would require police officers hired after July 1st, 2018 to live in the city for the first 10 years of their employment by the police department.

     Residency rules for city employees has been a major issue with a majority of City Councilors.

     The council delayed for almost two years the approval of a contract for the city’s district fire chiefs because of disagreements over the residency provisions.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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