SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Officers and supervisors at the Springfield Police Department started wearing body-worn cameras on this day one year ago.
According to a news release sent to 22News for the Springfield Police Department’s spokesman Ryan Walsh, twelve officers were the first to wear the cameras on duty. Now just under 500 sworn officers and supervisors wear body-worn cameras while on duty. More than 13,600 hours have been captured on camera in one year.
A dozen officers and supervisors have been trained in their use as of June 2020. School resource officers will not wear cameras over student privacy concerns and during medical calls and when an officer does not have permission to record in a residence without a warrant. Body-worn cameras issued to police officers will not have night vision or facial recognition capabilities.
The Springfield Police Department is believed to be the only department launching a body-worn camera program during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As one of the largest departments in the state, it is no small feat to have a full-fledged body-worn camera program underway and I am pleased with its effectiveness thus far,” Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood said. “Body-worn cameras have been lauded for their ability to provide transparency and accountability, benefiting both the public and officers, and we’ve already begun to see those benefits in one year of use. The body-worn cameras have been a tremendous tool for this department, both in evaluating officers’ actions and seeing the good that they do each day, and I look forward to seeing how this technology may help our department evolve and progress in the future.”
Since its implementation one year ago, the BWC program has assisted the department in recognizing officers for life saving actions, conducting investigations and improving accountability.
The Springfield Police Department released body-worn camera footage of officers saving a three-month-old baby boy on April 20.
The Springfield Police Department’s Internal Audit Unit reviews BWC footage to ensure officers’ actions and interactions with the public are in accordance with the department’s policies. If the Internal Audit Unit observes something that may be against policy, it will be investigated by the department. The District Attorney’s Office will also investigate potentially criminal cases. In one instance an incident was flagged by the Springfield Police Department’s audit unit and has resulted in criminal charges against an officer.
The program is expected to cost $2.5 million for the first five years. A grant of $1.1 million was provided by the U.S. Department of Justice which included a review and approval process prior to its implementation.
“I want to applaud Commissioner Clapprood and her team for their continued belief and support of the full use of body-worn cameras for our Springfield Police Department. My administration has been committed to pushing for this initiative to increase transparency and accountability for a checks and balances on police and public interactions,” Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said. “I am also proud that our brave and dedicated SPD has been one of the few, if not the only department in the nation to have launched this initiative during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. We remain one of the few departments in the Commonwealth to have fully implemented body-worn cameras.”
He added, “Already we have seen the tremendous benefit from this technology. In April, it captured footage of three officers responding to a call for service and saving the life of a baby boy. There has also been numerous encounters, interactions and events captured and recorded that will undoubtedly help with training and education aspects at our academy. In addition, our SPD Internal Audit Unit can review and flag footage for any potential investigations that may be needed, making the process of reviewing an officer’s actions and interactions with the public more transparent.”