By Susan Gonsalves, Contributing Writer
WESTBOROUGH – Having body cameras in the Westborough Police Department will show transparency when officers are doing something right, but also act as a tool when something goes wrong so that corrective action can be taken.
That was the message conveyed by Police Chief Jeff Lourie at a June 17 meeting of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
The chief reviewed the fact the police department received a $39,530 grant for the program. In May, Town Meeting approved $25,176 to help with other costs.
The chief said that funds for licensing and storage fees will occur annually. He added that the department is in the midst of an accreditation process and is updating its policy and procedure manual, which will go online when it’s done.
Once accreditation is approved, the town will be more likely to get grant funds to help with re-occurring expenses.
Lourie said he believes that this is the direction of future policing, anticipating that body cameras may one day become mandatory. It is a situation he said he embraces.
Lourie noted that a proposal for this year’s Special Town Meeting in the fall would seek a lieutenant’s position to help manage the body camera program. One of this person’s duties would be to redact videos taken with the camera. Lourie explained that the list of things that would get redacted includes juveniles or other people filmed who are not part of a recorded incident.
Officers will be assigned cameras at the beginning of each shift. Lourie said that filming can take place in parks and other public places. However, if the officer is inside a person’s home, that individual has the right to ask him/her not to record.
An inquiry and disciplinary action will take place if an officer does not use the camera.
“We expect to utilize them for public safety and their safety to see what the encounter was,” he explained. “Over the last year and a half, there have been times when some people have not been nice to us…As the chief, I would like to show what happened. Sometimes these videos will speak volumes of what’s going on.”
Board member Sgt. Michael Daniels noted that the camera has a power switch as well as a giant button that you double tap to turn on. To de-activate, the button is held down, he said.
The chief said that the program is an “extensive and intensive, long-term initiative” to which he is committed. He added that he believes the community is also supportive.
Although COVID-19 slowed things down a bit, Lourie said, “we got our sea legs back and we’re 100 miles per hour” moving forward.
Lourie will return later on in the year after the cameras are used for a while to give an update.
“You have an amazing police department,” Lourie told the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. “We’re all about inclusion and working for a very safe environment…I wish I could tell you there’s no crime in Westborough. Our officers are very busy.”