Pittsfield Police Union Delays Body Camera Pilot

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Police Department's implementation of a body camera pilot program is being held up by concerns from the union.

On Tuesday, the City Council tabled a status update from the department on body-worn cameras, which have been requested by the council and community members since the police killing of Miguel Estrella in March.

In May, the council formally voted to endorse the use of surveillance technology.

"We're delayed at the moment but we've made quite a bit of progress on the program as a whole," Captain Gary Traversa said.  

He reported that progress had been delayed for the prior 10 days due to issues with the police union but could not disclose any further information.

The panel expects an update on the pilot and a cost estimate for the procurement of body cameras in two weeks.  

"The community has waited a long time for this. We've heard cries for this. The fact that there's a delay, I've got to say, I'm disappointed, " Councilor at Large Earl Persip III said.

"I thought we had all of our ducks in a row trying to do anything we can do to speed this back up. I don't want to delay. I think we should table this and have an update in two weeks. I think the community would want an update in two weeks at our next meeting."

The department met with three vendors, Axon, BodyWorn, and WatchGuard, and dropped WatchGuard from consideration due to a lack of responsiveness and other factors.

After issues with the union are settled, the next step is to deploy the cameras into the field for a six to eight-week period. The department is looking at deploying about 90 cameras and is impressed with aspects of both vendors' technology.

A temporary pilot policy was issued earlier this month.



The hope was to have a vendor chosen by the end of the year.

Traversa described it as a "complex process" with an involved piece of technology that has a lot of features and additional capabilities.

"There are a lot of moving parts and we're trying to work through them one step at a time as best we can,' he added.

Mayor Linda Tyer also could not provide any additional details.

"I think that there were some issues raised this week that the union needs to work through and we won't be able to move forward until those are settled," she said. "I can't speak to it in any greater detail than that."

Persip pressed Tyer for a cost estimate to purchase the cameras but she did not have one. So far, there have been no known conversations with the finance department about it.

Traversa said the department has not "taken much of a dive into the procurement process."

Persip prefers that Tyer asks for the money at the next council meeting to prevent any more delays.


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State Fire Marshal: Keep Warm, Keep Safe During Cold Snap

STOW, Mass. — With bitter cold temperatures heading our way this weekend, State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey is reminding residents to "Keep Warm, Keep Safe" and avoid fire and carbon monoxide (CO) hazards while heating their homes.
 
"Home heating equipment is the second-leading cause of residential fires and the main source of carbon monoxide at home," Ostroskey said. "Working smoke and CO alarms are your first line of defense against these hazards. With furnaces, fireplaces, and space heaters working overtime this weekend, be sure they're installed on every floor of your home and test them to be sure you and your family are protected.
 
Space Heaters
"It's important to keep space heaters at least three feet from curtains, bedding, and anything else that can burn," Ostroskey said. "Plug them directly into a wall socket, not an extension cord or a power strip, and remember that they're intended for temporary use. Always turn a space heater off when you leave the room or go to sleep."
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