SPRINGFIELD, MA — The head of the Springfield Police Department’s supervisors’ union is throwing cold water on this month’s announcement of a “landmark” agreement to implement body cameras for the city’s officers.
On June 8, Mayor Domenic Sarno, Patrolman’s Union President Joe Gentile and Police Commissioner John Barbieri held a press conference at City Hall to announce a new contract, including pay hikes and a full-scale rollout of body cameras.
But according to Capt. Brian Keenan, head of the department’s Supervisor’s Association, the celebratory announcement was premature. His union, which represents sergeants, lieutenants and captains, is still working without a contract — and there can be no body cameras policy without its consent, Keenan said.
“While we are happy for our fellow officers ratifying a new contract, a body camera policy cannot be implemented until the city finalizes a new contract with the Supervisor’s Association,” Keenan told MassLive.
Logistically, any body camera policy would require buy-in from both rank-and-file officers and their superiors, Keenan said.
“Without the supervisors there’s no one to supervise or administer the program,” Keenan said. “As far as we’re concerned the ball’s in the city’s court. We hope to come to an agreement.”
While the patrolman’s union have completed their lengthy negotiations with the city, ratifying their agreement last week, talks are unresolved between the supervisors and the city.
“We are in negotiations with the Springfield Police Supervisor’s Association and hope to reach a deal as soon as possible,” said William Mahoney, the city’s Director of Human Resources and Labor Relations.
Mahoney said he could not comment on the status of the body camera policy due to ongoing negotiations with the supervisors’ union.
The deal ratified by the patrolman’s union last week includes a 13 percent overall pay increase over four years, a residency requirement for newly hired officers and a social media policy.
It also included a commitment to implement body cameras — a policy endorsed for years by city and departmental leadership, but which until now had been held up by contract negotiations and logistical concerns.
Details on the policy remain sparse. The city has declined to release the text of the deal until it is sent to the City Council for approval, and on Monday City Council President Orlando Ramos said he had not yet received a copy of the agreement.
At an April 2017 City Council subcommittee hearing, Barbieri expressed hope that labor negotiations would lead to a deal on body cameras. But city officials cited practical difficulties to their implementation, including the cost of storing footage, debate over what footage would qualify as public records and privacy concerns about officers using body cameras in private homes.
At the June 8 press conference, Mahoney said the deal would make Springfield the largest department in Massachusetts to have a full-scale body camera policy. In 2016, Boston police participated in a pilot program in which 100 officers wore body cameras for a year.
The resulting study found a slight reduction in complaints against officers wearing the cameras but no statistically significant change in use of force. Research on the effects of body cameras is mixed; other studies have found significant reductions in use of force among officers wearing cameras.