The largest police department in western Massachusetts is taking steps to equip all its officers with body-worn cameras.
The Springfield Police Department has selected a vendor and expects to shortly finalize details of a contract to acquire 511 body-worn cameras along with the necessary software and support equipment.
"The Springfield Police Department is looking at outfitting all the officers with a camera," said Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood, who appeared before the City Council’s Public Safety Committee. She said initially 10 officers per-shift will be outfitted with cameras.
"We are obviously going to roll it out cautiously to make sure the hiccups come with a small amount and not with 511," Clapprood told the councilors.
Clapprood said her goal is to have every patrol officer and supervisor equipped with a body-worn camera by May.
Outfitting the cops with cameras is seen as a way to help restore public trust in the department which has been battered recently by some high-profile misconduct scandals.
"It was a goal of (Mayor Domenic Sarno) and one that I agreed with," said Clapprood, who added she viewed cameras as a tool to "help us."
" I think it is important to get the officer's view and perspective and show it to you from start to finish," said Clapprood.
After years of negotiating with the police unions over the use of body-worn cameras, the city solicited bids last year. Four companies were invited to the Springfield Police Academy last fall for demonstrations and testing. Based on the evaluations, Getac Video Solutions was picked as the winning bidder.
The police department’s budget director Jennifer Leydon told councilors the cost of the body worn camera system would be $2.2 million-$2.5 million over five years. She said the full City Council could be asked at its February 3rd meeting to authorize the funds.
Many 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 very satisfied with the progress reported by the police commissioner.
"I am happy that we are moving forward and almost at the finish line to be able to implement these cameras," said Ramos.
Clapprood said policies for when cameras are turned on and off and for responding to public records requests for the recorded video are still being finalized.
City Councilor Adam Gomez said transparency needs to be the guiding principle for the policies.
"The reason why we want cameras is to hold people accountable," said Gomez.
Clapprood said the body camera system the city has chosen does not come with facial recognition technology.
The City Council is considering an ordinance that would put a five-year moratorium on the police use of facial surveillance technology.