Easthampton Police rolling out body cameras

  • Easthampton Police Chief Robert Alberti, left, and officer Charlie Vargas demonstrate body cameras Tuesday morning that will be employed by the department after receiving state grant funding. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Easthampton Police Chief Robert Alberti, left, and officer Charlie Vargas demonstrate body cameras Tuesday morning that will be employed by the department after receiving state grant funding. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Easthampton Police Chief Robert Alberti, left, and officer Charlie Vargas demonstrate body cameras Tuesday morning that will be employed by the department after receiving state grant funding. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Easthampton Police Chief Robert Alberti displays one of the body cameras that the department will use. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Easthampton police officer Charlie Vargas demonstrates the body cameras Tuesday morning that will be employed by the department after receiving state grant funding. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Easthampton police officer Charlie Vargas demonstrates the body cameras Tuesday morning that will be employed by the department after receiving state grant funding. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Hadley Police Lieutenant Mitchell Kuc demonstrates the body camera system used by the department Tuesday morning at the station in Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Hadley Police Lieutenant Mitchell Kuc demonstrates the body camera system used by the department Tuesday morning at the station in Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Hadley Police Lieutenant Mitchell Kuc demonstrates the body camera system used by the department Tuesday morning at the station in Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Hadley Police Lieutenant Mitchell Kuc demonstrates the camera system used in cruisers Tuesday morning at the station in Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Hadley Police Lieutenant Mitchell Kuc demonstrates the camera system used in cruisers Tuesday morning at the station in Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Hadley Police Lieutenant Mitchell Kuc demonstrates the camera system used in cruisers Tuesday morning at the station in Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Hadley Police Lieutenant Mitchell Kuc demonstrates the camera system used in cruisers Tuesday morning at the station in Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Hadley Police Lieutenant Mitchell Kuc demonstrates the camera system used in cruisers Tuesday morning at the station in Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Hadley Police Lieutenant Mitchell Kuc demonstrates the body camera system used by the department Tuesday morning at the station in Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 11/29/2022 8:18:13 PM
Modified: 11/29/2022 8:17:57 PM

EASTHAMPTON — The city’s police officers will soon be among less than a handful of departments in Hampshire County that are equipped with body-worn cameras.

The Baker-Polito administration recently announced that Easthampton Police has been awarded more than $14,000 in grant funding that will help the department roll out its body-worn cameras program.

“It’s been a long process from top to bottom,” said Sgt. Tim Rogers. “We’re excited to get it up and running.”

The department, which has 30 full-time officers and 10 part-time officers, will soon undergo training on its new body cameras, which were recently delivered. The cameras were manufactured by Axon Enterprise Inc. of Scottsdale, Arizona. The company is also known for its initial product and former namesake, Taser, a line of electroshock weapons.

Sgt. Chad Alexander wrote the grants for the program and Rogers did the research and testing into selecting the company that would supply the body cameras. Ultimately, Rogers said, Axon’s was the best product for the department’s needs.

“We wanted a product that was user-friendly, durable and obvious. Some body cameras out there are now able to be integrated into a police uniform, but ours do not. We would like everyone to be aware that incidents are being recorded,” he said. “We don’t want any allegations that we’re recording in secret. We want to be open and have everyone in the public aware.”

Easthampton is one of 32 departments across Massachusetts to receive funding to establish or expand body-worn camera programs in their respective municipalities.

The grant is the second round of funding the department has received from the state Office of Grants and Research. Easthampton was awarded $40,000 in funding in January.

The grants are the first in a five-year, $20 million capital grant program administered by the office of grants and research within the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. The program is expected to deploy approximately 9,000 body-worn cameras to law enforcement agencies throughout the state.

‘Phenomenal’ technology

While there are only a few departments implementing this technology on their regular patrols, Hatfield and Hadley police departments have been utilizing body cameras for several years.

Hatfield Police Chief Michael Dekoschak said his department was among the first to launch a program in the area with officers first wearing WatchGuard Video body cameras six years ago.

“We have had no issues with the system and are committed to their use,” Dekoschak said in an emailed response.

He said the department chose the Allen, Texas, company because it was the most suitable and economical system for their needs.

Hatfield also received $5,638 in state grant funding in January to upgrade its system.

Hadley Police’s body camera program first launched in 2020.

“We think that they’re phenomenal. They record all of our interactions between the public and our officers,” said Hadley Police Lt. Mitchell Kuc Jr. “They’re invaluable in court. Instead of just hearing testimony or having it being left to the officer’s words, you can see what happened. … It’s extensively being utilized.”

Hadley also uses a WatchGuard Video system and has a server on site. The body cam assigned to an on-duty officer works in tandem with the dashboard cameras outfitted in each of the cruisers, said Kuc.

Once an officer climbs into their patrol vehicle, the body camera is synchronized with the dash camera, which is equipped with two lenses. Patrol vehicles are also equipped with a camera in the backseat to film those taken into police custody.

The cameras are also set up to activate via a number of triggers, including when the lights on top of the car are flashing, if the prisoner door is opened or if the vehicle crashes or if someone crashes into the vehicle.

The system is also linked to the surveillance system of the department’s booking area.

When the department first implemented its system, officers received training that included notifying the public of the new device.

“When I interact with someone, by policy, I say, ‘Hi, I’m Lt. Kuc of the Hadley Police Department. Just so you know, you’re being recorded.’ It’s not to be sneaky by any means whatsoever,” he said.

For the time being, other area departments such as Amherst and Northampton do not have a body camera program.

“We have no current plans, but are following the state conversation,” Northampton Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra said in a statement.

Northampton Police Chief Jody D. Kasper said that when the police reform bill was being passed, she had thought that body cameras might be something that could be required. Although the topic of body cameras has been discussed, she said that it wasn’t a priority right now for the department, which has 60 police officers. The department has had dashboard cameras since 2003.

“It’s not something we’re currently pursuing,” she said.

In the meantime, Rogers said if all goes according to plan, Easthampton’s new program could launch as early as next month.

“We operate in a world where most things we do are recorded by the public so I think it’s important for us to have incidents documented in their entirety,” he said. “I think this is a positive thing for us and a positive thing for the community.”

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.
Sign up for our free email updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Headlines
Daily Hampshire Gazette Contests & Promotions
Daily Hampshire Gazette Evening Top Reads
Daily Hampshire Gazette Breaking News
Daily Hampshire Gazette Obits
Daily Hampshire Gazette Sports
Daily Hampshire Gazette PM Updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Weekly Top Stories
Daily Hampshire Gazette Valley Advocate

Jobs



Support Local Journalism


Subscribe to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, your leading source for news in the Pioneer Valley.


Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

23 Service Center Road
Northampton, MA 01060
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy