The Nantucket Select Board on Wednesday unanimously approved a $494,100 contract to buy body cameras for the Nantucket Police Department. The three-year contract includes an integrated camera system with third-party data storage.
Nantucket Police Department chief Bill Pittman briefed the Select Board via Zoom during the meeting, as he was off-island attending a Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association gathering. Pittman said the word among his counterparts on the mainland was that "if you don't have body cameras yet, you will be getting them."
While NPD was one of the first police departments in Massachusetts to integrate cameras into its cruisers, it does not yet have body cameras deployed with its officers.
"This contract we’re putting forward is to purchase an integrated camera system that includes the body cameras, special adapters for officers' weapons, so if a weapon is drawn out of its holster, the camera automatically comes on," Pittman said. "All of this will be one package: a data storage contract, so the video will be stored by a private vendor that is vetted by the state and accessible to the attorneys, defendants, and public record requests."
Pittman told the Current that it could take a year or longer to fully implement the body camera system given the fact that so many police departments across the country are adopting the technology.
"So we have to go into the queue, plus there's chip shortages," Pittman said. "It will be at least a year before we're up and going."
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder by police officer Derek Chauvin in Minnesota and numerous other cases in which video recordings of police interactions, or the lack thereof, have been pivotal, departments nationwide have been adopting body cameras as a tool to both hold officers accountable and protect them from false complaints.
The Massachusetts police reform bill signed into law in December 2020 called for the creation of a task force to study body camera regulations. While the state never mandated them, Pittman said body cameras have essentially become viewed as required, and departments without them are often called on to explain why they were not in use during criminal trials.
"They won't mandate them because then they have to pay for them," Pittman said.
The department is hoping to get a grant to cover a portion of the cost, he added, but that would be only $30,000 even if the grant application is successful.
In terms of adopting similar technology, the Nantucket Police Department is well ahead of other Massachusetts police agencies, having implemented dashboard cameras in all its cruisers 17 years ago. Among the state’s roughly 480 law enforcement agencies, WBUR recently reported, only a dozen have body cameras and even fewer have dashboard cameras.