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Springfield Takes A Step Toward Equipping Police With Body Cameras


      The city of Springfield, Massachusetts is seeking bids from companies to supply the city’s troubled police department with a body-worn camera system.

     Springfield City Hall formally solicited bids Wednesday for a police body- worn camera system that includes outfitting 500 officers with cameras along with “state of the art recording and storage capabilities.”

    The deadline for submitting proposals is August 7th at 2 p.m.

     Mayor Domenic Sarno said the body camera initiative is something he urged acting Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood to aggressively pursue after she took charge of the police department last February.

   "I think it is extremely important because of all the proactive things we've done," said Sarno.

     The body cameras are seen as one step in helping restore public trust in the police department which has been rocked by a series of officer misconduct scandals.

    " I am hopeful something will come to fruition this fall," said Sarno when asked about the expected rollout of the cameras.

     He has said the police body camera program is “a funding priority” but city officials have not publicly discussed an estimated cost for it.

     Last year, the city awarded a $300,500 contract to a consulting company to do a feasibility study with the police department, which has now been completed.

     As Springfield moves closer to a police body camera program, a bill being considered by state lawmakers would make the video from police body cameras unavailable for the public to view.

     Sponsors say they are concerned about the privacy of people during interactions with police. But Secretary of State Bill Galvin, the state’s chief public records-keeper, said the proposal is “unwarranted and unacceptable.”

     Sarno said a blanket exemption runs counter to the goals of transparency and improving police-community relations.

    "I really want to be able to use this to difuse any potentially controversial situations," said Sarno.

        Clapprood said before the cameras are used for the first time, the Springfield Police Department will have a policy in place for making the video available to the public.

    " What police departments have told us that have successful policies is to have strict guidelines and always adhere to them," said Clapprood.

     In an interview, Clapprood acknowledged there is lot of internal debate about the body cameras.

    "When we have a meeting we take ten steps forward, but we might take a couple back," said Clapprood who added "We've been working through it."

   Very few police departments in Massachusetts currently use body cameras or dashboard cameras.

    The Boston Police Department earlier this year outfitted about 200 of its 2,000 police officers with body cameras.

    About 100 Massachusetts State Troopers were to begin wearing body cameras this year in what was announced as a six month pilot program.

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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