The technology is starting to arrive, and soon Johnston police expect to be recording interactions with the public while on duty.
By April, uniform-worn cameras may be rolling and the state will be picking up most of the $482,649.82 tab.
Then Johnston Police Deputy Chief Mark Vieira (who has since been sworn in as Chief) and Major Matthew G. LeDuc, Uniformed Division Commander, attended the Dec. 12 Town Council meeting to announce progress in the move toward body-worn cameras (BWCs).
“Relative to the body-worn camera program, we are in the process of receiving the body-worn cameras and supporting equipment from the vendor, AXON,” Johnston Police Chief Mark A. Vieira said last month via email. At the time, Vieira was the department’s Deputy Chief. LeDuc has been sworn-in as Deputy Chief.
According to the resolution, unanimously approved by town council, the five-year camera program will cost $482,649.82 ($96,529.70 for the first year and $96,530.03 per year for each of the remaining four years). The state has agreed to reimburse Johnston $80,500 per year for the program ($402,500).
The state expects to cover 46 BWCs in Johnston with the $402,500 in grant funding.
Town Council resolved to authorize outgoing Mayor Joseph M. Polisena to enter into the agreement with Axon Enterprises, Inc. to provide the “Body 1 Camera Program” for the department.
The Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office, Rhode Island State Police and the state’s Police Chiefs Asociation (RIPCA) all signed off on the program after an extensive public comment period.
In June 2021, Gov. Dan McKee signed legislation creating the Statewide Body-Worn Camera Program, aiming “to equip every frontline police officer” with BWCs.
Neighboring cities like Cranston and Warwick have started rolling out BWCs, and those departments have also contracted with Axon.
“Once all equipment is received, arrangements will be made for representatives from AXON to begin training our officers in the use of the body-worn camera equipment,” Vieira explained. “A timetable of when the program’s rollout will begin is not definitively known as AXON has to coordinate trainings among numerous police agencies throughout the state. Nonetheless, we are hopeful the rollout of the program will begin sometime in April.”
In October, state, federal and local law enforcement leaders announced $16 million in grants for Ocean State police departments for body-worn cameras. The grants are expected to fund the purchase of 1,773 cameras for 42 local law enforcement organizations across the state.
“Police departments will now purchase and operate the cameras governed by a recently finalized statewide policy that sets comprehensive standards for the use of the cameras,” according to an Oct. 22 press release from Attorney General Peter F. Neronha’s office.
“In an increasingly technological age, where judges, juries and the public expect to see the evidence on which they are to make decisions and render judgments, making body-worn cameras broadly available makes perfect sense,” Neronha said. “With (the October) funding announcement, we have removed a substantial monetary barrier for many municipalities that continuously juggle critical priorities.”
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