All Sworn Officers Wear BWCs On Duty, Over 13,600 Hours Captured in One Year
SPRINGFIELD — One year ago today, the first 12 Springfield Police officers and supervisors were outfitted with Getac body-worn cameras (BWC).
Today, all sworn officers and supervisors in the department, just under 500, wear BWCs while on duty. As of the end of May, 13,688.67 total hours of video have been captured since June 2020.
The program was begun as a major step toward added transparency and accountability within the department, and is believed to be the only program in the country launched during the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the pilot group, the department’s training officers regularly trained additional personnel on the proper use of BWCs and related departmental policies. All officers were trained and outfitted as of October 2020.
Springfield remains one of few departments in the Commonwealth to have fully implemented body-worn cameras.
“As one of the largest departments in the state, it is no small feat to have a full-fledged body-worn camera program underway and I am pleased with its effectiveness thus far,” Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood said. “Body-worn cameras have been lauded for their ability to provide transparency and accountability, benefiting both the public and officers, and we’ve already begun to see those benefits in one year of use. The body-worn cameras have been a tremendous tool for this department, both in evaluating officers’ actions and seeing the good that they do each day, and I look forward to seeing how this technology may help our department evolve and progress in the future.”
The BWCs are worn at all times during an officer’s shift. The cameras, including audio recording, are automatically activated when a cruiser’s emergency lights are activated, and can be manually activated by the officer. Footage is recorded and saved from 30 seconds prior to a camera being activated. The cameras do not have certain technological enhancements, like facial recognition or night vision.
Due to privacy concerns, recording in certain locations is prohibited, including within the city’s schools, when in contact with confidential informants, during medical calls and when an officer does not have permission to record in a residence without a warrant.
Since its implementation one year ago, the BWC program has assisted the department in recognizing officers for life saving actions, conducting investigations and improving accountability.
In April, officers’ body-worn cameras recorded the actions of three officers who saved the life of a baby boy. Footage of two officer-involved shootings in which no one was struck was used to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation and resulted in the officers in both incidents being cleared of wrongdoing.
The Springfield Police Department’s Internal Audit Unit reviews BWC footage to ensure officers’ actions and interactions with the public are in accordance with the department’s policies. If the Internal Audit Unit observes something that may be against policy, it will be investigated by the department. The District Attorney’s Office will also investigate potentially criminal cases. In one instance an incident was flagged by the Springfield Police Department’s audit unit and has resulted in criminal charges against an officer.
The first five years of the program, up to 2024, is estimated to cost about $2.5 million. To help fund the program, including equipment, storage and renovations to the public safety complex, the department received an approximately $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). As part of the grant process, the DOJ reviewed and approved the department’s BWC policy prior to its implementation.
“I want to applaud Commissioner Clapprood and her team for their continued belief and support of the full use of body-worn cameras for our Springfield Police Department. My administration has been committed to pushing for this initiative to increase transparency and accountability for a checks and balances on police and public interactions,” Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said. “I am also proud that our brave and dedicated SPD has been one of the few, if not the only department in the nation to have launched this initiative during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. We remain one of the few departments in the Commonwealth to have fully implemented body-worn cameras.”
He added, “Already we have seen the tremendous benefit from this technology. In April, it captured footage of three officers responding to a call for service and saving the life of a baby boy. There has also been numerous encounters, interactions and events captured and recorded that will undoubtedly help with training and education aspects at our academy. In addition, our SPD Internal Audit Unit can review and flag footage for any potential investigations that may be needed, making the process of reviewing an officer’s actions and interactions with the public more transparent.”