Pittsfield Buys Body Worn Cameras For Police

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Pittsfield Township’s Public Safety officers will soon be equipped with body worn cameras now that the Pittsfield Board of Trustees has approved an investment of $182,081.78 in purchasing cameras from Axon.

“We’re at a state now where every day we’re not equipping our officers with body worn cameras, we’re opening up the township to litigation,” Director of Public Safety Matt Harshberger told the Board of Trustees, Wednesday evening. “The officers want cameras now.”

Pittsfield was not part of the initial wave of municipalities that purchased body worn cameras in the wake of repeated incidents of lethal use of force by police against American citizens, which went under increased public scrutiny over the course of the last decade. People of Color are statistically much more likely to be victims of lethal force than Caucasian Americans.

According to the statistics company Statsia, the ratio of Black Americans shot dead by police between 2015 and 2021 stood at 36 per million, whereas it was 27 per million for Hispanic Americans and 15 per million for White Americans.

The Washington Post has also maintained a database
on these discrepancies since 2015. The Post’s data has found that African American citizens “are killed by police at more than twice the rate of White Americans” in a finding most recently updated last Friday.

The cameras have been championed by civil rights activists as a transparency tool to fight this problem for years, but it just as much an evidence collection and safety tool. Pittsfield Township held off investing in this system because of concerns over legal exposure and citizen’s privacy. But now that enough time and court battles have passed, the Department of Public Safety recommended proceeding with buying them.

After reviewing body worn camera footage worn by officers recently, Trustee Linda Edwards-Brown said that the clip “Showed me that we have a community focused department that is transparent.”

Forty-four devices will be purchased on a five year contract with Axon, which will include cloud storage and constant updates of the software that the body worn cameras will use. Three Pittsfield officers are already using Axon cameras on a trail run basis.

Image Credit: Pittsfield Township

Harshberger wrote in a memo attached to the packet of the May 26 meeting that the alternative supplier, Watchguard, appeared “to be less advanced from a design and reliability standpoint that resulted in it being less user-friendly from the officer’s and backend support staff perspective.”

Besides, Watchguard would have cost $242,078, according to Harshberger.

“I’m very glad that we’re doing this, not only for the safety of our officers, but for the safety of our residents as well,” Treasurer Patricia Tupacz Scribner said.

Headline image credit: Pittsfield Township

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