Worcester Police introduce a body camera program


“I hope that with the use of bodycams we will set an example and send a message: that we want to strengthen transparency and trust.”

A police officer demonstrates how to use an Axon body camera in this file photo. Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

Hundreds of Worcester police officers are scheduled to begin using body cameras on February 27.

The citywide program was detailed by officials on Tuesday. It is touted as an important step in increasing trust between the public and the police.

“I hope that through the use of body worn cameras we make a statement and send a message: that we want to increase transparency and trust,” Worcester Police Chief Steven Sargent said at a press conference, according to footage released by WCVB.

In all, the department purchased 300 cameras from Axon Enterprises Inc., MassLive reported. The company will also provide 16 hours of officer training.

The cameras are turned on by double-pressing a large button on the front, and a red light indicates that recording is in progress. Recording stops when the button is pressed for about four seconds.

The cameras are stored in charging stations inside the station, and batteries for the cameras last between 12 and 16 hours, according to MassLive. As the cameras charge, the video stored on them is uploaded to an online evidence database.

Worcester City Councilor Khrystian King welcomed the use of body cameras.

“It’s certainly a step in the right direction,” King told WCVB. “I think what you’re going to see with this technology is that Worcester will be able to look at law enforcement proceedings and law enforcement operations and we’ll have the ability to implicate and exonerate them.”

A plan to introduce body cameras at the city’s police department has been in the works for years. A pilot program initially ran from May to November 2019. During this time, more than 7,700 individual videos were generated and around 1,100 hours of video were recorded. Officials evaluated the results of the pilot program in 2020 and committed to community outreach in 2021, according to NBC Boston.

Using body cameras will have a number of benefits, police said.

“We anticipate many benefits … including improved police transparency and accountability, improved police training, assistance in investigating complaints and assistance in de-escalation,” Sargent said in footage released by NBC Boston.

The use of body cameras is increasing in police departments across the state. Last week, Cambridge City Manager Yi-An Huang said officials there will wear them.

Huang’s comments came after the death of 20-year-old Arif Sayed Faisal. The UMass Boston student was fatally shot by police on Jan. 4. A witness told police Faisal appeared to have cut himself with a knife during the incident, officials said. Police first attempted to hit Faisal with a “less than fatal sponge round”.

Lowell Police will soon begin using body cameras as well. The department received grants in November to fund the purchase of the cameras.

The Baker-Polito administration that same month announced nearly $2.5 million in grants to equip officers across Massachusetts with body cameras.

“The investments we are making in these programs today will help create safer communities for years to come,” former Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement at the time.

https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2023/02/21/worcester-police-body-camera-program/ Worcester Police introduce a body camera program

Brian Ashcraft

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