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Plattsburgh Common Council considers grant to pay for police body cameras

Plattsburgh Police Department patch
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Photo of Plattsburgh Police Department patch

During Thursday’s Plattsburgh Common Council meeting, the mayor broke a tie vote to accept a state grant to fund body cameras for the police department.

In early 2021 the city applied for a state grant that supports initial implementation of body cameras in police departments. Plattsburgh was awarded $100,000.

There is no state mandate requiring police departments to use body cameras. During the council’s Public Safety Committee meeting earlier in the week, Provisional Police Chief Bud York indicated he expects that to change.

“What the $100,000 would pay for basically is get the Plattsburgh City Police Department into the body camera program. The state has been pushing for all police departments across the state for use of the body cameras. Now the $100,000 covers everything the first year. It gets us cameras and the radios that go with them and it also gives us the cloud storage. After that it’s going to be a minimum of $13 to 20-thousand depending on if we have enough storage.”

Mayor Chris Rosenquest, a Democrat, describes himself as “agnostic” about obtaining body cameras.

“We’re not certain about the legislative action or the mandate for body cameras. We do know that the members of the department and the leadership of the department and the council they mostly are in support of the transparency that body cameras does provide. I don’t want to say I’m fairly agnostic but I am fairly like hey let’s be flexible. I’m not for or against. Just to figure out how this is going to play out. You know obviously we’re not going to oppose it. If the members want it then then yeah absolutely we’re going to provide what they want as well.”

Acceptance of the grant was before the common council on Thursday. Ward 3 Democrat Elizabeth Gibbs had a number of questions for the mayor about the funding and potential use of the cameras.

“Is there any kind of written policy provided to the police department about how body camera use would be implemented?”

“There’s no written policy provided," noted the Mayor. "That’s something that is developed internally.”

Gibbs then asked “How many body cameras would be purchased?”

“What’s being currently recommended," Mayor Rosenquest noted, "Is 23 cameras which can be shared between officers depending on their shift.”

“Do we know," Gibbs continued, "what the overall cost is going to be between hardware, software and possible staffing?”

“There’s no projected for additional staffing," Rosenquest replied. "The annual expense that we’re projected to have is $12,800 which is the software cost from managing the cloud storage. Using the $100,000 I believe it’s like $87,000 of that goes into actual hardware.”

The council voted three yes, two no and one abstention. The mayor voted yes to accept the grant.

Ward 6 Democrat Jeff Moore was in opposition.

“From my opinion I think this is going to cause more trouble than it solves. I think we’re going to end up with more lawsuits. But that’s just my opinion.”

After the vote Mayor Rosenquest explained that there is not a timeline yet for implementation of body cameras in the police department.

“There needs to be some policy created on how they’re used and how we’re responding to them internally as well as to how they’re assigned. There’s got to be some organizational or some type of operational structure for how they’re used first. But there’s a number of vendors that we’ve talked to regarding the use of them, the purchase of them, the longevity and what that might look like over the five-year lifecycle of that technology. And once we decide on who that vender will be then we’ll move forward with that using this money.”

Councilors also approved a labor new contract with the city fire department. While she voted to approve it, Councilor Gibbs expressed some concerns about the final result.

“My largest concern about this particular contract is I did not see any changes to operations that could bring down long term overall costs for the city.”

Mayor Rosenquest noted it is the fourth labor contract his office has negotiated with bargaining units.

“I’m very pro-union. I think it’s a fair contract. Overall it averages out about a 2 ½ percent increase over the course of the contract. It certainly takes a little bit of stress off of my office having now negotiated the fourth union contract in the city of Plattsburgh. Those contracts are going to be through 2025 through 2027 and we’re pretty happy about that.”

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