The police department in Springfield, Massachusetts is moving closer to becoming the first big city police department in the state to equip all its cops with body cameras.
Body-worn camera systems from four companies will be evaluated over the next several weeks in scripted scenarios at the Springfield Police Academy with a goal to choose a vendor and begin equipping on-duty officers with cameras by the end of this year.
Springfield Police Capt. Robert Tardiff said 35 people are taking part in the evaluations including representatives from the Hampden District Attorney’s office and civilians.
"We are going to test them all and find the best one for the city, absolutely," said Tardiff.
Providing an update to the Springfield City Council’s Public Safety Committee Monday, Tardiff said the police department has already developed a policy for how cameras are to be used. He said it was developed with help from a consultant hired by the city, by the experiences of other police departments where body cameras have been used, and negotiations with the unions that represent the department’s patrol officers and supervisors.
"The Springfield Police (Dept) put a lot of time into our policy," Tardiff assured the committee.
The four companies that are demonstrating their products were selected from 10 firms that submitted bids last month in response to the city’s request for proposals to outfit the 400-member police department with body cameras.
Still unknown is how much a body camera system will cost the city. What each company proposes to charge has been sealed in the bid documents and won’t be revealed until after the evaluations of each company’s products is finished, according to Jennifer Leydon, the budget director for the police department.
"We are going to be doing demonstrations for another couple of weeks and then we will be opening pricing and that will help also determine what system we use," said Leydon.
She estimated startup costs could be $3 million- $4 million with annual costs of $1 million or more depending on where the city decides to store the digital images recorded by the hundreds of cameras.
City councilors have clamored for years for Springfield police to be equipped with body cameras believing it will help improve public trust and make the city less vulnerable to expensive judgements and settlements in police misconduct cases.
City Councilor Orlando Ramos, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said he is glad to hear progress is being made.
"There is support from both the administration and City Council to find the funding source," said Ramos. " We are committed to making this happen and we will find the money."
Springfield City Councilors will be asked to approve an order allowing the police department to eventually sign a contract for a body warn camera system that exceeds three years.
Vendor contracts are limited to three years, unless an exception is approved by the City Council.