Officials in Springfield, Massachusetts say they have a three-phase plan to outfit the city’s police officers with body-worn cameras.
As a first step, the city plans to hire a consultant to guide the implementation of the police body camera program, write rules for when officers will be required to turn the cameras on -- or switch them off -- and come up with specifications for equipment that will have to be purchased.
Next, the city will seeks bids from vendors to supply the cameras and other necessary hardware and software.
After the equipment and other essentials are purchased, the body camera program will be rolled out.
No timeframe has been announced for implementing the plan.
" Certainly, it is a priority," said Springfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri, who discussed the plans for the rollout of the body camera program at a recent meeting of the City Council Public Safety Committee. He said beside public safety, it is his "number one priority."
Springfield is poised to become the largest city in Massachusetts where police officers have body-worn cameras.
Earlier this year, the union that represents the police department’s nearly 400 patrol officers and the city finalized a new four-year contract that requires the use of body cameras. No such agreement has been reached with the union that represents supervisors, but Barbieri said that won’t hold back the rollout.
" I hope we get a (contract) resolution with the supervisors to get them onboard with body-worn cameras," he said.
Barbieri said he’ll rely on the recommendations of the consultant the city eventually hires to determine whether the body camera program will launch with all patrol officers or as a pilot program with a smaller number of initial participants.
He said he wants to make sure no mistakes are made when use of the cameras begins.
"Body cams are used differently in every jursidiction and that is why we want to get best practices," said Barbieri.
Mayor Domenic Sarno vowed recently in a written statement to move “full steam ahead” with body cameras for the city’s police officers. The statement said the city’s chief finance officer had made the program a funding priority.
City Councilor Justin Hurst, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, plans to closely monitor the implementation of the body camera program.
"The good thing it seems is that there is money allocated for the purchase of the cameras and other things we need," said Hurst adding " I am exicted about that."
Hurst said police body cameras is something he and a majority of other councilors have long sought.
"I think they not only protest residents from a small percentage of police officers who might be doing the wrong thing, but it also protects the police officers who are wrongly accused at times," said Hurst adding he hoped the police officers "embraced the cameras."
The announcement the city is moving “full steam ahead” with police body cameras comes as the U.S. Justice Department is conducting an investigation of possible civil rights violations by members of the former narcotics unit of the Springfield Police Department.
A state grand jury has reportedly been investigating a 2016 incident where former narcotics officers allegedly assaulted and brutally interrogated two Hispanic teenagers suspected of stealing an un-marked police vehicle.
The interrogation was recorded by a camera in the holding cell at a suburban police department.