While still dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, police in the largest city in western Massachusetts have started training to use body-worn cameras.
Twelve officers were taken off the streets in Springfield this week to be trained on the body-worn camera system the city purchased earlier this year.
Despite having to adjust on the fly to the public health emergency with new procedures including single-officer patrol cars, enforce things like face coverings and social distancing, and respond to a surge in domestic violence complaints, Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood said the Springfield Police Department is moving forward with the body camera initiative.
"They are coming at a good time, I think," said Clapprood. "We welcome the body-worn cameras to have an officer's perspective on what has occured."
The 12 officers who are the first to be trained on the system will in turn train the next group of officers to expedite the learning curve for the new equipment.
" They're going to be the ones going to different shifts and different bureaus and instruct the officers on how to operate the body-worn cameras and explain the policy that goes with the body-worn cameras," explained Clapprood.
The training curriculum has been adjusted with social distancing in mind.
Clapprood said she is targeting July to “flip the switch” on the body cameras.
"When we do that everyone will be trained," said Clapprood.
Body-worn cameras for cops in Springfield have been a long time coming. In March, when the City Council passed a $1.7 million bond to purchase the cameras, City Councilor Orlando Ramos recalled that it was 2015 when a resolution passed that he sponsored calling for police to wear body cameras.
"It has been a long road, a long journey, but we are finally here," Ramos said.
The total cost of the body camera program is estimated at about $5 million over a five-year period. That includes the cost of 500 cameras, charging stations and other hardware, cloud storage, and hiring three video analysts and an administrator for the program.
To those who might question the expense, Ramos pointed out that in the last decade, Springfield had paid out more than $4 million as of a result of judgements or settlements in police misconduct cases.
" Police body cameras are intended to protect the officers from false allegations and protect the public from police misconduct," said Ramos.
The city got a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Justice Department to cover some of the cost of the new body camera system.