Portland, Maine, Council OKs Police Body Cameras

Though city officials cleared the way for the use of the devices, a policy must still be developed for their implementation.

by Randy Billings, Portland Press Herald / November 7, 2017
Shutterstock

(TNS) -- The City Council approved two labor contracts on Monday that clear the way for police officers in Maine’s largest city to begin wearing body cameras.

But city officials still need to draft a policy before officers are outfitted with the technology that advocates say leads to more respectful interactions between officers and the public, while also creating a record of confrontations that turn violent.

Because Councilor Spencer Thibodeau was sick and unable to attend the meeting, the council postponed action until Nov. 20 on a property tax relief program for seniors and adding new requirements for companies that receive tax breaks from the city.

The labor contracts approved by the council cover the Police Benevolent Association, representing 125 police officers and detectives, and the Police Superior Officers Benevolent Association, representing 32 police lieutenants and sergeants.

The three-year contracts, covering Jan. 1, 2017, to Dec. 31, 2019, will cost the city more than $1.3 million. Both unions will receive a 2 percent raise in 2017, followed by 4 percent increases in 2018 and 2019.

The contract with patrolmen will lead to $1 million a year in additional wages, while the supervisors’ contract will increases waged by nearly $338,000.

Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said developing a policy to govern use of body cameras will require input from the public, the council and stakeholders such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine.

Nationally, the push for police to use body cameras grew after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, a black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. Contradictory accounts of the encounter between Brown and a white police officer led to widespread calls for more video recordings and greater accountability.

Mayor Ethan Strimling pushed for deployment of body cameras after a Portland officer shot and killed a man in February. City Councilors, at an April press conference, also voiced support for body cameras.

Several Maine police departments are already using body cameras, including Fairfield, Gardiner, Wilton, Farmington, Richmond, Monmouth, Winslow and South Portland.

©2017 the Portland Press Herald (Portland, Maine) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

NEW ON THE PODCAST

Tech Startups Can Help Revitalize Both Ends of Your Ballot