Police in the largest city in western Massachusetts will soon start wearing cameras as funds have now been approved to purchase the equipment.
The Springfield City Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve a $1.7 million bond that will be used to purchase 500 body-worn cameras for all Springfield Police officers as well as related equipment.
" Its been a long road, a long journey, but we are finally here," said City Councilor Orlando Ramos, who chairs the Public Safety Committee.
He recalled that he had sponsored a resolution passed unanimously by the Council in 2015 that called for police officers to wear body cameras.
"I want to thank each and everyone of you for your support on this very important issue. I want to thank the administration and the police department for coming to the table and making this happen for our residents." said Ramos.
To those who might question the expense, Ramos pointed out that over the last decade the city had paid out more than $4 million as a result of judgements or settlements in police misconduct cases.
"Police body-cameras are intended to protect the officers from false allegations and to protect the public from police misconduct," Ramos said.
Police plan to incrementally implement the body-worn cameras. Beginning next month, 10 cops per shift will be deployed with the new technology. Additional officers will then be trained with the goal to eventually outfit all 500 officers with a body camera.
The total cost of the body camera program for both equipment and personnel is about $5.6 million over a five-year period, according to Jennifer Leydon, the business director for the Springfield Police Department.
" We are bonding for equipment, we're bonding for facility infrastructure updates, IT infrastructure updates and for all of that over a five-year period," Leydon said.
A $1.1 million grant the city received from the U.S. Justice Department will be used to cover some of the operational costs of the body-cameras. The Police Department is planning to hire three analysists and an administrator to manage the program. The city is going to pay $275,000 annually for cloud storage of the video.
City Councilor Tracye Whitfield, who chairs the Finance Committee, said the expense for the body-camera program is “well worth it.”
" It provides safety for our officers and our constituents, " said Whitfield.
The city picked Getac Video Solutions of Minnesota as the vendor for the body-camera system after receiving 10 bids.