COLCHESTER — The town police department is moving forward with procuring body worn cameras (BWCs) for its officers and use is expected to begin this fall.
The department will lease 25 cameras to be used anytime an officer interacts with the public. The cameras and their necessary docking stations and software cost nearly $20,000 annually.
“This has been a long and arduous road,” Chief Doug Allen told the Selectboard on Aug. 24.
CPD has toyed with the idea of utilizing BWCs for many years, he said. Back when Jennifer Morrison was the chief of police, he conducted research for her on the program.
According to an Aug. 20 memo Allen wrote to the Selectboard, CPD was waiting to see how other Chittenden County police departments, like South Burlington, Winooski and Essex, navigated the technical issues and policies of BWCs before investing itself.
“It’s an expensive proposition, and not one we want to jump into without having our ducks in a row,” Allen said. “We think we’re at that point now.”
In May, Allen and Town Manager Aaron Frank told the Sun BWCs could be expected in the department by the end of the year.
“This is the expectation of a modern police department,” Frank said.
At the Aug. 24 Selectboard meeting, Allen listed what he said were the many benefits of BWCs, including meeting the demands of both the modern public and the digital age.
“Part of our mission statement for 20 years is accountability and transparency,” he said. “Body worn cameras will help us with that.”
Colchester Police’s BWCs will be used anytime an officer interacts with the public and in conjunction with the cameras that are already located in CPD cruisers. In schools, BWCs are prohibited, except when responding to a criminal act or a use of force is anticipated.
A 10-page draft policy, titled General Order #35, was crafted by CPD to outline when the cameras should be used, how long recordings will be saved for and when footage can be reviewed. CPD’s policy conforms with recommendations from the Vermont Department of Public Safety.
The first two years of CPD’s five-year camera lease will be paid for through a grant, Allen said. The remaining three years of funding will need to be raised through municipal tax dollars.
Officers will be trained on camera-se and policy compliance within 30 days of receiving the equipment, according to the Aug. 20 memo. Once training is complete, Colchester Police’s BWC program will become operational.