Town to be reimbursed for police body cameras

The State Bonding Commission has approved a 100% reimbursement to the town for the $158,000 that was spent in June for police body cameras, according to Capt. Thomas Conlan.

The department brass notified the Board of Selectmen of the bonding commission’s action during a meeting Dec. 4 at town hall.

It’s what’s known as a reimbursable grant, Conlan said. In other words, the town must spend the money first and then get it back.

“We purchased our cameras in June of 2017, and got them in July,” Conlan said of the new units, which are made by Panasonic, the same company that made the in-car cameras the police use. The equipment synchronizes itself, which is an advantage unrelated brands would not have, he said.

The cost was $75,000 for 50 body cameras, which is enough to equip all officers on the 45-member force as well as have spares available, plus the hard drive and servers to store the recorded videos, which take up a lot of computer space.

The videos are classified in eight categories, some of which must be stored for a minimum 90 days, and some of which must be kept for at least 10 years, such as criminal arrest cases.

“For 80% of the videos, it is only kept 90 days,” Conlan said.

The reason for the body cameras, which sit on the upper chest, is for transparency with the public, Conlan said. It strengthens the accountability of officers involved in incidents.

“We have open transparency with the public if they want to view videos. If they felt they were treated unfairly by an officer, they can make a complaint, and we’d look into it,” he said.

People who have been arrested can make a Freedom of Information request to see the video from their arrest, he said. The videos are not available to the public in general, though, only to those who have had an interaction with the police.

“Every police officer has one,” Conlan said.

The good thing about these body cameras is the computer hardware storage system that came with them, he said. Some brands offer cloud storage of video files, which can cost $30,000 a year or more.

“We have our own hard-drive server equipment and we can back it up right here as well,” Conlan said.

The equipment has a lifespan of 10 years, at least.

“We’ve been very happy with the cameras,” he said.