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Massachusetts police get more body cameras with new round of state funding

A police car in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Nancy Eve Cohen
A police car in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

More police officers in western Massachusetts will be wearing body cameras following a new round of state grants.

Dalton police chief Deanna Strout spent a recent morning watching her officers try out body cameras. They are deciding whether to spring for high-tech models that turn on automatically during a call.

Strout said the small Berkshire county town couldn’t afford body-worn cameras before this $130,000 state grant, part of $2.5 million given to 32 municipalities this year. Dalton plans to use the funds to buy cameras for 15 officers.

“It's a lot of money for these small towns to get these cameras up and running and connect them to where they need to be, plus storage, plus public information requests,” Strout said.

She said the cameras should help keep officers accountable and protect them from false allegations.

“It's in the police reform bill that at some point they're going to be part of every department, but it's not being forced upon us,” Strout said. “We wanted to do it.”

Statewide, Gov. Charlie Baker's administration has pledged $20 million in funding for police body cameras, over five years, including $4 million in 2021.

Other western Massachusetts police departments receiving grants this round included Easthampton, North Adams, Williamstown, Cheshire and Pittsfield.

Karen Brown is a radio and print journalist who focuses on health care, mental health, children’s issues, and other topics about the human condition. She has been a full-time radio reporter for NEPM since 1998.