WORCESETER - The Worcester Police Department will launch its body worn camera program at a commencement event on Feb. 27., according to information set to be presented to city councilors on Tuesday.
The police department began researching adoption of body cameras in 2018. From May to November 2019, twenty officers operated with body cameras as part of the department's pilot program. The department says it conducted evaluation and assessment in 2020 and sought community input in 2021. The policy governing the use of body camera was written in 2022.
Footage generated by body cameras are public records, subject to requests under Massachusets public records law. In a report that will be presented to city councilors on Tuesday, Chief of Police Steven Sargent recommends the city hire three individuals to act as redaction specialists who will be responsible for editing video requested as public records.
The Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security recommends one full-time support person for every 75 body cameras. Worcester Police acquired 300 body cameras to launch its programs, leaving Sargent's hiring recommendations 25% less than state recommended staffing levels.
Until those positions are filled, the police department will staff those roles, using overtime hours only.
The police department policy on the use of body cameras requires officers to activate their camera in most situations where an officer is interacting with members of the public in an official capacity, including during detail and other assignments outside of their shifts. Officers are not required to activate the camera during casual interactions.
Officers are not required to record to record in certain sensitive areas like locker rooms, places of worship, religious ceremonies, hospitals, law offices and day care facilities.
In most other situations, officers are prohibited from deactivating their camera unless the incident has concluded or authorized by a supervisor.