AUBURN — The City Council gave an informal nod of support for the Police Department’s timeline for acquiring body cameras for all officers next year.
The body camera system, slated to cost $277,000, would mark a significant step for Auburn as law enforcement agencies across the country look to increase transparency in the wake of nationwide protests.
According to Police Chief Jason Moen, Auburn had already been planning to acquire the system, which will compliment its newly purchased in-car camera systems. He said officer-worn body cameras will strengthen the department’s transparency with the public, as well as officer performance and accountability.
He has also said that “nine times out of 10, the video validates the good job officers are doing.”
During a workshop discussion Tuesday, Moen told the council that the “BodyWorn” system is among the most versatile law enforcement camera systems available, and it is the only body camera system endorsed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People board of directors.
The system can be paired with an officer’s in-car cam, offering a duel view of an officer response. It also has certain mechanisms that cause it to begin recording in certain situations.
“We want to simplify it for the officers,” Moen said, so that during a “high-stress situation, it’s the last thing they are thinking of.”
Funding is included in next year’s Capital Improvement Plan, which if approved, would become available July 1.
The department is planning to form an implementation committee in January 2021 regarding officer training and policies that Moen said will involve stakeholders, including residents.
“We want to be transparent, it’s not a hidden secret,” he said.
Moen said officer training would begin Sept. 1, 2021, with the body cameras for all 54 sworn officers in service by Nov. 1, 2021.
Asked if the Auburn police union is behind the effort, Moen said it is.
“They know it’s going to help protect them,” he said.
The system will also use cloud storage, which Moen said will eliminate the department’s reliance on other storage methods for data, including the roughly 5,000 compact discs it is storing.
The new in-car cameras for Auburn police will be active by October, Moen said.
City staff will also pursue other funding sources that could help pay for the cameras, but as of now, Moen said they have dried up.
In Lewiston, city officials have established a similar timeline for acquiring body cameras, but with no firm funding plan or vendor selected.
After the City Council passed a resolution that committed the city to have a plan in place by the end of the year, the Lewiston police union requested that all officers be outfitted with body cameras by June 1, 2021, or sooner, meaning the council would likely have to take action on a purchase before the end of the year.
Also on Tuesday, the City Council appointed members to serve on two upcoming committees that will drive significant long-term planning initiatives.
Through a series of secret ballot votes, the council appointed councilors Brian Carrier and Belinda Gerry to serve on a committee that will create a request-for-proposals for a study of Lake Auburn; and Councilors Katie Boss and Tim MacLeod to serve on the Comprehensive Plan review committee, which will form the 10-year update to the plan.
The Lake Auburn study is meant to give Auburn an independent, third-party analysis regarding the financial and environmental impacts of the current ordinances governing the lake, and whether they should be amended.