Police officers in Worcester, Massachusetts, will receive a $1,300 annual stipend in addition to their regular pay thanks to an amendment to the city council’s new body-worn camera policy.
According to City Councilmember Kate Toomey, the stipend will make up for the added workload given to officers by the new body camera policy.
“It changes how they do reports, it takes extra time to review and write the reports,” Toomey said. “Making sure that it’s deployed correctly, and I think that they all have a right. There’s case law that establishes their right to have collective bargaining for this.”
The proposal for the amendment initially arose from contract negotiations between the city and the police union, where negotiators argued that the camera policy constituted a change in working conditions for police and thus necessitated a pay raise.
A council motion to approve of a stipend was then proposed and approved on May 2 after an 8–2 vote in favor of allocating the money to the police.
Per the proposal, officers will receive the annual stipend as long as the body-worn camera policy remains in effect.
“You have to remember that people are actually working for that extra pay, that’s not their base pay and I think it’s important to put that into context,” Toomey said. “Our role is to approve it, and I certainly have no problem voting for that.”
According to City Solicitor Michael Traynor, the city council was “legally obligated” to provide the funds to officers represented by the New England Police Benevolent Association (NEPBA), since the city already agreed on the change in working conditions during contract negotiations.
While some argued that since officers are legally obligated to wear body cameras and should not receive extra pay for something that is part of the job, others supported the decision, arguing it would facilitate a transparent body camera policy, and reasoned that the cost would amount to $25 per officer each month.
The body camera policy, which requires every officer to wear the device while interacting with the public, took effect on February 27.
Th department purchased a total of 300 cameras from Axon Enterprises Inc. through grant money awarded to the state.
Indeed, the state has allocated around $20 million over the past five years to provide body cameras to law enforcement agencies.
According to WCVB, around 65 police departments in the state have already purchased or are in the process of outfitting their officers with body cameras.
Officials touted the program as a way to build trust between the police and the community.
“By deploying body-worn cameras, I hope that we are making a statement and sending a message that we want to strengthen transparency and trust,” Worcester Police Chief Steven Sargent said during a press conference.
According to the policy, the cameras are automatically turned on when a Taser or gun is unholstered. Otherwise, officers have to manually activate the cameras at the beginning of their shift.
The devices will be stored in charging stations inside the station and their footage will be uploaded to an online evidence database.
“We expect to see many benefits … including enhanced police transparency and accountability, improved police training, assistance with investigation of complaints, and assisting with de-escalation,” Sargent said.