<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=915327909015523&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1" target="_blank"> Skip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.

Dalton police officers will begin use of body cameras this spring. And get paid extra for it

The view outside the Dalton Police Department

The Dalton Police Department this year will implement the use of officer-worn body cameras, paid for by grant funding. As officers learn the new technology, they'll be compensated with stipends starting in July.

DALTON — After months of testing, officers in Dalton will soon wear newly ordered body cameras, a change the town’s police chief says should reassure residents.

“These officers are so in favor of body cams, and I think that should build confidence in our community,” said Chief Deanna Strout. “These officers know they’re out there doing a good job, and they’re not afraid to showcase that.”

Officers will eventually receive a stipend to adjust to the new devices.

Strout said her department’s officers are excited to adopt the technology. The cameras will be used to assist the department in four main areas, the chief said: use of force investigations, citizen complaints, public information requests and evidence gathering. A supervisor at the department will automatically review footage in any of these cases.

Patrol officers will receive a stipend equal to about 2 percent of their base salary, according to union president Josh Bradley, an officer in the department. Because use of body cameras changes working conditions, the union was able to bargain for the added pay.

Bradley was one of three officers who volunteered to test body cameras provided by Axon. The department later opted to go with gear from a different vendor, Utility Inc., and placed an order in December.

“It’s a big change when you’re not used to wearing it,” Bradley said of the device he tested. “I know the first couple calls I went on, it was about five minutes into the call and I was like, ‘Oh no, I didn’t turn the thing on.’”

Each Dalton officer will receive a body camera as part of the Body-Worn Cameras Grant Program from the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. The Dalton department received the sixth largest grant in the state, totaling about $129,368 for the body cameras.

The same state grant in November included body camera funding for Cheshire ($26,196.90), North Adams ($94,492), Pittsfield ($166,586.73) and Williamstown ($18,941.80).

Tom Hutcheson, Dalton’s town manager, said early tests show the value of the new gear.

“They have already proved useful in verifying officers’ respectful behavior during traffic stops,” Hutcheson said. “The additional verification of what goes on in the field is worth that cost.”

Officers’ duties

Officers in Dalton will be responsible for making sure the new cameras are maintained. That includes cleaning lenses and ensuring the device is recording properly. While on duty, they’ll have to ensure that the cameras are charged and later transfer video from them into the department’s storage system.

Reviewing footage will also add to the officers’ workload, Bradley said. But he said it will be useful to be able to review things they might not have seen the first time while out on a call.

The stipend recognizes that the cameras change the nature of the job, Hutcheson said.

“Even if you’re doing the same thing, knowing that you’re being recorded is an extra demand on your attention,” he said.

The increase will cost the town around $1,000 per officer, Hutcheson said. By the time the stipends are distributed, there will be eight full-time officers and three sergeants. Reserve officers working part time will receive a 2 percent increase in their hourly rate.

Hutcheson said the town will adjust the stipends once it has more data to work with regarding the cameras and their use. He feels the investment will benefit the town.

The stipends will begin in July 2023 and carry through until July 2025, Bradley said. Dalton is the second town in Berkshire County to move forward with its body camera program since grant funding from the state was announced, trailing only Great Barrington. In that town, officers began wearing body cameras in September.

After testing Axon body cameras in late September, Strout said the department opted for the technology provided by the Utility Inc. body cameras.

Strout said the new cameras will be linked to the department’s Computer-Aided Dispatch, or CAD, system, and take care of a key issue automatically: When an officer arrives within 100 feet of their call location, the camera will automatically turn on.

The cameras will also automatically start capturing video at other points, as well — including if an officer touches their holster to draw their firearm. The camera will also start if the officer activates lights on their squad car. Utility Inc. cameras will enable the department to make redactions to videos with ease, Strout said, including obscuring faces and license plates, if needed.

Strout said the state grant should cover the department’s expenses through the next five years. She expects the cameras to be delivered within about five weeks. After a few weeks of training, camera use will become routine.

That will leave some time before the stipends kick in, she said, but the officers will begin wearing the cameras as soon as the equipment is available.

“What I really appreciate about these guys is that they’re budget conscious, too,” Strout said. “They’re going to be wearing these body cameras for free for the first six months of this year. They’ve already been wearing it for free since October.”

Matt Martinez can be reached at mmartinez@berkshireeagle.com.

News Reporter

Matt Martinez is a news reporter at The Berkshire Eagle. He worked at Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, graduated Marquette University. He is a former Report for America corps member.

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.