With $20 million, the Baker administration is planning to buy about 9,000 body-worn cameras and the servers necessary to securely store video for municipal police departments across Massachusetts over the next five years.
The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security announced Thursday that its Office of Grants and Research will run the competitive grant program, which will help local departments either start a new body cam program or expand an existing one. Applications opened to municipal departments on Wednesday and will remain open until Aug. 30.
"Body worn cameras provide municipal police departments of every size with a transformative tool to advance public safety," Public Safety and Security Secretary Thomas Turco said. "Beyond evidence collection and accountability, law enforcement leaders can develop new training exercises and best practices guided by the insights the footage provides."
EOPSS said only 10% of municipal police departments in Massachusetts operate their own body camera program but pointed to a poll conducted by the Massachusetts Chief of Police Association that found that more than 75% of departments are interested in starting a program. As part of the grant application, a police force will have to submit a plan detailing how it will deploy the cameras and how they will enhance the agency's mission.
After a series of scandals tainted the State Police's reputation, that agency in 2019 launched a body camera pilot program and this March began training the first troopers to use the cameras as a routine part of their job. The policing reform law that Beacon Hill debated and passed last year called for a task force on body cameras, which have taken on fresh importance amid national conversations about the role and practices of some police departments.
"Research has found that police-worn body cameras reduce department costs, promote best practices, and improve police-community relations. Grants such as these that expand their use serve to improve policing across the Commonwealth and carry out the mission of the police reform law we passed," said Rep. Carlos Gonzalez, who co-chairs the Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security and was a key negotiator of the policing reform bill.