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Pittsfield police will wear body cameras and use dash cameras thanks to a newly greenlit contract with Axon Enterprises

body camera on pocket of police uniform (copy)

A Great Barrington police officer wears an Axon body camera on his uniform at the station in September. The Pittsfield Police Department will now issue Axon body cameras and dash cameras to city officers following a unanimous City Council vote Tuesday.

PITTSFIELD — Body cameras — and dash cameras — will become standard issue for Pittsfield police officers under a newly approved million dollar-plus contract with Axon Enterprises.

The contract, approved by an unanimous vote of the City Council on Tuesday, puts to rest what has been a multiyear community push for the cameras. That effort reached a fever pitch last year following the killing of 22-year-old Miguel Estrella by a Pittsfield police officer.

Over months of community conversations and debate in front of the council, Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn’s position on the legality of body cameras changed.

On Tuesday, Wynn told the council he’d enter into a contract and officially launch the department’s permanent body camera program as soon as the council authorized it.

Councilor Earl Persip III asked the chief to give the public a timeline on when the department would be fully outfitted with the new cameras. Wynn said the department will likely bring on the body-worn cameras first and then add the dash cameras, but he couldn’t give the council a specific launch date.

“[Axon] got us the cameras for the pilot very quickly, but they’ve given us indication that they’re still dealing with supply chain issues,” Wynn said. “I don’t expect it to be months, but I can’t tell you it’s going to be weeks.”

The department has been carrying out a pilot program with Axon body cameras and software since December. During the pilot, two cameras were cycled through officers on the general shift while another two cameras were worn by officers in the department’s investigative section.

Wynn told the council that in the middle of the pilot the department decided to add a lease of dash cameras for department cruisers to the draft contract with Axon.

The final contract approved by the council includes more technology and a bigger price tag than initially discussed.

The Axon quotes for the contract provided to the council totals to just over $1,457,480. Included in this plan is the lease of 90 body-worn cameras, 90 “signal sidearm kits” and 20 dash cameras for the department’s cruisers

A description of the kit on Axon’s website says that the signal sits on an officer’s firearm holster and alerts the camera to begin recording any time the officer draws their firearm.

The lease of the cameras makes up about $532,332 of what comes to a just under $1,175,997 contract over five years. The firearm signals account for $22,410 of that contract.

Helping to support the launch of the program is the award of a $166,586 grant from the state’s Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. The office, which oversees the state’s efforts to increase the use of body-worn cameras, has donated money to a number of Berkshire communities.

Mayor Linda Tyer said the grant will delay the need to put any unplanned city money toward the program. Tyer and Wynn had previously discussed using some of the city’s free cash — leftover funds from the previous year’s budget — to kick off the program.

Tyer said Tuesday that’s no longer necessary.

City and department officials plan to make the body cameras a regular line item in the police department’s budget request — a budget that already exceeds $10 million.

The quote from Axon lays out a yearly cost of $213,726.40 for the body cameras and their associated software. Costs for the dash cameras will come in between $51,000 and $61,000 annually over the course of the next five years.

Meg Britton-Mehlisch can be reached at mbritton@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6149.

Pittsfield Reporter

Meg Britton-Mehlisch is the Pittsfield reporter for The Berkshire Eagle. Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, she previously worked at the Prior Lake American and its sister publications under the Southwest News Media umbrella in Savage, Minnesota.

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