Local leaders push to implement body cams in more western Mass. police departments
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Western Mass News is looking into possible local impacts after dramatic body cam video was released from last week’s fatal shooting of two police officers in Connecticut.
We know the Springfield Police Department is one of only a few in the Bay State with body cameras fully implemented. Could this tragedy in Connecticut prompt more in our area?
In June 2020, the Springfield Police Department was the largest municipality in the state of Massachusetts to implement the use of body-worn cameras. Now, after seeing what the Connecticut body cam footage revealed, local leaders are hoping more departments across western Mass. will follow suit.
“Very disheartening to see how our law enforcement agents on a day-to-day basis face these types of situations,” said State Representative Carlos González.
He spoke with Western Mass News after body camera footage from Bristol, Connecticut, police officer Alec Iurato was released by the Connecticut Inspector General’s Office Sunday night.
Representative González also serves as the Chairman of the Joint Committee Of Public Safety and Homeland Security. He said that he was a strong advocate for the use of body-worn cameras in the Springfield Police Department before they were implemented in June 2020.
“The body cameras have been another weapon to fight crime for the police departments,” Representative González told us.
Body cam video of Wednesday night’s incident shows three officers ambushed, shot, two of them killed, and the Officer Iurato fatally shooting the suspect. Connecticut’s Office of the Inspector General declared that this use of deadly force, as seen on video, was justified. That office was established in 2021 and charged with conducting investigations of police officers.
Representative González told Western Mass News that he would like to see similar action here in the Bay State.
“We need to have a statewide policy in place to look at these situations. Sometimes, we may need to delay more than other times,” he said. “However, the sooner we get out to the public, the better it is.”
We also checked in with Springfield Police Department Public Information Officer Ryan Walsh to get answers on how their program works. We were told that an internal audit unit reviews footage and can investigate if something is observed that may be against department policy. The District Attorney’s Office can also investigate potential criminal cases.
The first five years of the Springfield program, up to the year 2024, is estimated to cost about $2.5 million. To help fund the program, the department received over a million dollars in grant money from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Despite the hefty price tag, Walsh told Western Mass News that the results are promising, as complaints of criminal misconduct by police have also gone down over that timeframe. Others are soon following suit.
“Very soon, we have our Department of Correction officers that will have body cameras, so the state has put some funding available,” Representative González said. “We need to get more, and municipalities need to buy in.”
Funeral arrangements for a joint service for Sergeant DeMonte and Officer Hamzy have been set for this Friday, October 21st at Pratt and Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, CT.
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