BERLIN – Town leaders approved a new Berlin Police Department policy governing the use of body cameras this week.
The policy, approved Monday by the Berlin Town Council, will allow the town’s police officers to begin using body cameras. Police Chief Arnold Downing expects the cameras to be fully implemented within a month.
“We’ve been piloting them,” he said. “Now we’ll train through the policy itself and address any questions.”
On Monday, the council formally approved the General Order for the Berlin Police Department’s Body Worn Camera Program. The policy provides guidelines for the use, management, storage and review of media recorded by the body cameras.
“It is the policy of the Berlin Police Department to utilize Body Worn Cameras for the purpose of documenting evidence and accurately recording, through video and audio means, interactions that occur between officers and members of the public,” the document reads.
According to the policy, the body cameras are intended to enhance officer safety and help accurately capture events. The cameras will also help officers document and review their actions and provide opportunities for self-critique.
Though the council approved the department’s plan to implement body cameras last fall, Downing said it took time for the department to develop the necessary policy. Once his staff drafted the policy, it then had to be reviewed at the department level, by town administration and by an attorney.
“There were a lot of layers,” Downing said.
He said that officers had had access to the cameras themselves for some time and had familiarized themselves with how they worked.
“Most of them have had the opportunity to handle them,” Downing said. “The big question is about positioning — the best place to put it. Placement won’t be the same for everybody.”
He said that after reviewing the policy and consulting with the Worcester County State’s Attorney’s Office on a few final questions patrol officers would begin using the cameras regularly.
The cameras were purchased through Axon Enterprise Inc. with the help of a $5,000 grant from LGIT. The capital cost of the system was slightly less than $12,000 while annual maintenance and storage will cost approximately $6,300. The town signed a five-year contract with Axon Enterprise in October.