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Worcester, Mass., to Discuss Police Body Cam Pilot Program

There were petitions from citizens filed with the Worcester City Council calling to not go forward with a body camera program for police, while another petition called for funds to come from the existing police budget.

by Scott J. Croteau, MassLive.com / August 10, 2020

(TNS) — Worcester, Mass., City Council’s Public Safety Committee will have a hearing this week to discuss the Worcester Police Department’s body camera pilot program.

The meeting will begin Tuesday at 4 p.m., which is before the full council meeting.

Councilors received a report from Worcester Police Chief Steven Sargent a few weeks ago discussing the results of the pilot program.

The city then heard from residents during a council meeting where several people who supported reallocating money from the police budget to fund social services argued the body camera program was a waste of taxpayer money.

Some residents said the technology is ineffective.

There were petitions from citizens filed with the council calling for the city not to go forward with a body camera program for police. Another petition called for funds for such a program to come from existing funds within the police budget.

Councilors already asked City Manager Edward Augustus Jr. to create a plan to fund and implement a permanent police body camera program. The call was for the program to be ready by Jan. 1. There is no cash set aside in the police department’s budget for a body camera program.

The discussion about body cameras came after weeks of protests and testimony from residents calling for the police department’s budget to be defunded and instead reallocate money to social services in fiscal 2021. The police budget went forward as proposed with no cuts.

In his report, Sargent said a body camera program within the Worcester Police Department could come with a price tag as high as $11 million over five years.

The report discussed the pilot program that began in May 2019 and ended in October 2019.

The chief called the body cameras an “effective tool to preserve factual representation of officer/civilian interactions” and are effective in “capturing video and audio evidence for use in criminal investigations, internal investigations, officer training and increasing transparency.”

The chief also mentioned hurdles he felt would need to be addressed.

©2020 MassLive.com, Springfield, Mass. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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