RTM Approves Funding for GPD Body Cameras


By: Richard Kaufman

On Monday night, the Representative Town Meeting approved $359,298 for the purchase of police body cameras for the Greenwich Police Department. The funds were approved by a vote of 182 in favor, with 17 opposed and 16 abstentions.

The funds approved on Monday night will purchase 160 cameras from Axon, the company that supplies tasers to the department. The funding allows the department to enter into a five-year contract with Axon that will also include the purchasing of batteries, charging stations and mounting hardware, according to RTM Town Services Committee Chair, Richard Neuman.

There will also be remote equipment monitoring, interactive software with redaction capabilities, licenses, automatic monthly software updates and unlimited storage capacity. Axon will replace the cameras in two years when a new model comes out.

Over the summer, Gov. Ned Lamont signed a sweeping police reform bill, which includes a mandate that all municipalities in Connecticut must equip its officers with body cameras effective Jan. 1, 2021.

Additionally, Axon will supply the department with vehicle dashboard cameras. As part of Lamont’s legislation, all police cars must have such cameras as of July 2022.

“One of the positives we saw with the new police accountability rules [from the governor], is these cameras will help officers defend themselves if they are charged under these new rules,” Neuman said.

GPD Chief, James Heavey, said earlier this summer that he hopes the town can apply for state grants to help with the cost of the body cameras.

Only two RTM members spoke on the issue before the vote.

Hale McSharry from District 5 said the issue of police accountability is very important to him, and that body cameras do not fully address the issues.

“One of the reasons I ran for RTM in the first place is to speak against this item only to instill a healthy critique on what some may consider spending money on a feel good solution despite mixed data on its effectiveness,” McSharry said, noting several studies that have been conducted on police departments around the country.

“As evidenced by the number of horrifying videos of police violence caught on camera, such as the murder of George Floyd and the shooting of Jacob Blake, I do not believe that being on camera effectively stops police from committing violence,” McSharry added.

McSharry said he believes the only “surefire way” to reduce incidents of police violence is to reduce the amount of contact police departments have with the community, and to reduce funding for law enforcement by reappropriating that money towards social services.

Adam Leader from District 11 said that while he supported the proposal, he wished the town had implemented a data privacy policy ordinance first.

“These cameras can capture extra, unnecessary resident data, even if they are bystanders, engaging in first amendment activity, or aiding law enforcement, say by viewing residential security footage with a detective inside your home,” Leader said. “I recommend the First Selectman, as police commissioner, review the civil liberty and Freedom of Information impact of Greenwich Police body cameras, and publish a more protective Greenwich Police privacy policy and report it to the RTM.”

First Selectman Fred Camillo said earlier this month that while the town hasn’t had the issues that other cities around the country have had with regards to police violence, he still supports the usage of cameras.

“Certainly I think body cameras will not only protect the public, but protect the police,” Camillo said. “In a lot of cases, the police get accused of things they never did. This will help bring clarity to allegations that are made either way. I think it certainly is a plus for our town. This can clear up lawsuits, too, and even has the potential to save money in the long run for the town.”

In July during a meeting with the Board of Estimate and Taxation, Heavey said he has been advocating for cameras for over five years.

“I always say there are two types of police agencies in the state of Connecticut: those with body cameras, and those who will have them,” Heavey said. “I think the body cameras would go a long way on transparency and accountability. I think it would reduce liability.”

Now, the body cameras will finally be in place in the Greenwich Police Department.