Aug. 2—WILLIMANTIC — In accordance with a state mandate, the taxing district board has authorized the police department to use a cooperative to purchase body cameras and dashboard cameras. The board last week authorized the Willimantic Police Department to go with a company selected by Sourcewell Cooperative Purchasing by a unanimous vote.
The cameras are Motorola cameras being sold by Watchguard.
" I support this 100 percent or more," council member Dennis O'Brien said at the July 28 tax district meeting.
The camera mandate is one of several mandates outlined in the state House Bill 6004 (Public Act 20-1), known as the Police Accountability Act, which was approved by the state House and Senate in July 2020. State law requires all police departments in the state to use body cameras and dashboard cameras.
" Any time an officer is dealing with the public, he has to have a body camera on," Willimantic Police Chief Paul Hussey said.
There are some exceptions.
For example, Hussey said the cameras won't be worn when people are speaking with an undercover officer or someone is speaking confidentially.
" Cameras don't lie," Willimantic
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Cameras don't lie. It's a tool that is there for the police officers and the public, so you're protecting both sides of the equation. I think it's a great thing.
Willimantic Taxing District President Nectalis Martinez
Board approves the purchase of body cameras
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Taxing District President Nectalis Martinez said. " It's a tool that is there for the police officers and the public, so you're protecting both sides of the equation. I think it's a great thing."
The police department is also in the process of undergoing behavioral assessments for officers, one of several requirements outlined in the bill.
Hussey estimated it will cost the police department about $ 1.2 million for the cameras and associated expenses, including hiring someone to process the footage, expenses that will be spread out over five years.
A total of $400,000 is in the current capital budget to pay for the purchase of the cameras.
In addition, there is $60,000 in the current budget for administration of the cameras and there was an $38,664 increase in the budget to cover insurance premiums as the result of the police accountability act.
More funding will be appropriated to implement the camera systems in upcoming budgets.
Hussey said police looked at cameras from three vendors and decided Watchguard provided the best quality footage.
He said on some of the cameras, frames will " drop," but that is not the case with the Watchguard cameras.
Hussey also said they will not need to put modems in the cars for the Watchguard system.
"There's not a lot of difference in price, but there is a difference in quality," he said, referring to the systems that were reviewed.
He said training will be provided to officers about how to use the cameras and when to have them on and off.
Rivers said Windham Finance Director Christian Johnson recommended the board use pricing from the cooperative.
Hussey said he recently learned about body cameras during an event at the FBI Academy in Virginia in May.
Follow Michelle Warren on Twitter — @mwarrentc.