Pittsfield City Council approves body cameras for police / iBerkshires.com

Police Chief Michael Wynn answers questions from General Counsel Karen Kalinowsky, a former police officer, about when body cameras should be put in place.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. – City Council has voted to support body cameras on Pittsfield police officers.

Councilors approved two equipment petitions on Tuesday and forwarded them to local and state authorities.

There have been calls to set up body cameras as residents turned on the microphone at the council meeting to defend them after Miguel Estrella was shot and killed by police in late March.

General Councilor Earl Persip III said it’s probably one of the easiest votes he’ll get this year, speculating the community is in favor of body cameras and that Police Chief Michael Wynn hasn’t reported no opposition from the department.

“It seems like everyone is in agreement. What we don’t agree on are the policy issues, the legal issues, and we will address those issues,” Persip added.

“And I think the ordinance and the rules had a great discussion about how certain local communities do certain things, the state police do it, the governor gives out grants, it’s a slam dunk, it’s is easy, this should be a 10 -0 vote because all the support for this has been on the podium.”

One petition was from local attorney Rinaldo Del Gallo asking to equip city police officers with body and dashboard cameras and the other was from resident LeMarr Talley, who asked for legislation establishing body cameras for all Berkshire County Law Enforcement.

Both received support from the orders and rules subcommittee last week.

A preliminary investigation by the Pittsfield Police Department found that responding officers complied with established use-of-force guidelines. The incident is also under separate investigation by the state police.

The vote on both petitions was 10-0, with Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio absent. Ward 2 Councilor Charles Kronick expressed concern about privacy issues if body cameras were to be deployed.

Kronick said he supported body cameras when police were “conducting arrest cases interacting with a suspect, for lack of a better word,” but the language of the petition was not directed at cameras in situations such as welfare calls.

Wynn said he doesn’t think these concerns should be addressed in the petition but in policymaking.

Del Gallo reported that Ward 1 Councilman Kenneth Warren is drafting a body camera petition based on a model law to regulate the use of body-worn cameras by law enforcement in the American Civil Liberties Union.

“I don’t want to block that, there’s a lot of moving parts and there’s a lot of programs that we show our support for, and then the administration puts in place. They’re the executive, we’re the legislative, so there’s a lot going on, but I don’t want to delay that,” Warren said.

“It was mentioned years ago, a few years ago, and we’re here figuring out whether we’re going to tell the administration that we support it, we want to let them know whether we support it or not, so we should .

“Now the other thing is it’s not a problem, it’s not a big deal in the sense that it’s been done. Boston is doing it, Amherst is doing it, the state police are doing it, they take into account some of the some of the issues about it.”

General Counsel Karen Kalinowsky asked Wynn how long it would take to implement a body camera program.

“I can give you a solid number on that, if we were to put together an RFP this week we probably wouldn’t have a vendor selected until mid-summer and that’s assuming all the funding was in place, so the grant funding is not a barrier,” Wynn said, adding that the downstream issue is the staff managing the footage.

He said it won’t be a quick fix, but it won’t take years.

Wynn has previously talked about the barriers to a body camera program, such as how to use them within the legal framework you find in the Commonwealth and record keeping.

The number one problem is that Massachusetts is bipartisan consent in terms of registration and “nobody seems to want to take a look at it,” he said at the ordinances and rules meeting.

Jacquelyn Sykes, the girlfriend of Daniel Gillis who was killed by police in 2017 following a domestic disturbance call, has vowed to continue attending town meetings to advocate for police accountability .

“I came to speak the last two meetings on the subject of cameras and dash cams, I also came to speak in favor of the [Police Advisory and Review Board]. After that, I stopped coming to meetings and that was clearly a mistake. When the community doesn’t stay cohesive, things are just glossed over, if this is passed tonight and know that my commitment to coming to meetings will not stop,” she said.

“There are a lot of changes that need to be made in this city, body cameras are not the ultimate solution, it’s pretty sickening that there haven’t been any changes yet, policies and procedures are in place .”

Resident Tonya Frazier spoke in support of body cameras and systemic issues in the city.

“Three minutes here is not enough time to try to talk about the deep-rooted issues that are in this city, it ranges from the lack of resources for members of our community for housing, mental health, equality for all, there is also an increase in homelessness and not enough job opportunities,” she said.

“This is now the third meeting on this petition for body cameras, we must act now, not after another person has been wrongfully killed.”

The petitions were forwarded to Mayor Linda Tyer, Wynn, the state delegation, Governor Charlie Baker, Attorney General Maura Healey and the Law Enforcement Body Camera Task Force.

Keywords: Pittsfield Police,

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