One Chelsea Police union has agreed in principle to wearing body cameras on the job, and the second union is also expected very soon to agree to the practice as well – paving the path for the Administration and Chelsea Police to begin the process of implementing body-worn police cameras for every officer.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino reported the Chelsea Police Superior Officers Union had agreed to body cameras in its most recent contract negotiation, and an ongoing negotiation with the Patrol Officers Union would also likely result in the approval of that process too.
Chelsea Police would become the first department in the area to implement the practice department-wide.
“The Superior Officers have agreed to it and the Patrol Officers are in negotiations for that now,” said Ambrosino. “When we implement that, I don’t know, but this gives us the authority to move in that direction. I think it’s safe to say we could have them in the next fiscal year.”
Police-worn body cameras have been controversial for some time in the public and in the police department, but Ambrosino said that is becoming less of an issue and there wasn’t a lot of “grumbling” from the membership, he said. Mostly, he said many feel that it will become a requirement everywhere very soon.
“I think they feel inevitably it’s going to be mandated, so they wanted to be able to bargain for something now,” he said. “I think there is an inevitability to it. I think five years from now, you’ll have to have them on. There wasn’t a lot of grumbling and we reached an agreement.”
Ambrosino said in the previous contract, the top priority had been to negotiate for residency requirements for police. In this contract, he said they focused on body cameras, which was something that had been brought up as a priority by the Chelsea Black Community and others.
“The last contract it was residency and this time we focused on body cameras,” he said. “The Chelsea Black Community during their discussions with the City indicated they thought it would be a good step forward for the City and we were cognizant of that. I do think it is the wave of the future.”
Implementation is not an easy task, as it would likely cost around $200,000 or so to outfit the department, and there are a lot of technical issues to work out.
That will lie in the lap of Chief Brian Kyes, who Ambrosino said is working on a policy for cameras and an implementation plan as well.