October 17, 2018
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Julio Cortez | AP
Julio Cortez | AP
In this April 26, 2017 file photograph, a Newark, N.J. police officer displays how a body cam is worn.

Portland approves police union contracts to outfit officers with body cameras

PORTLAND, Maine — The City Council has approved new police contracts that will allow officers in Maine’s largest city to begin wearing body cameras.

The council voted unanimously Monday to approved the contracts with the city’s two police unions. Councilor Spencer Thibodeau was absent.

With the Monday vote Portland police are set to join many other law enforcement agencies across the state and country to adopt the technology.

The decision came less than a year after community activists called on the city to roll out the cameras more quickly after an officer shot and killed a man who had been brandishing a pellet gun that looked like a rifle. It remains unclear, however, exactly when officers will begin wearing the cameras.

The contracts also provide wage increases totaling to 10 percent over their three-year terms.

Under the contracts, Portland police eventually will outfit all officers with body cameras, starting with a pilot program for a portion of the department. A start date for the pilot has not been set, but the city has already received approval to repurpose roughly $26,000 from a federal law enforcement grant to pay for it.

[ Portland, police union strike deal to outfit police with body cameras]

Proponents of body cameras see them as a way to ensure police accountability and improve community-police relations. South Portland police started wearing body cameras in January.

The city earmarked $400,000 in its preliminary budget for the 2019 fiscal year to outfit police with the cameras. Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said Monday that the city is considering a July 1 request for proposals to supply the cameras.

Ahead of the pilot’s launch, the police department will convene a working group to set out preliminary policies for using the cameras. This group will seek community input at two meetings before presenting the policies to the City Council in a public workshop.

The police contracts will retroactively take effect as of Jan. 1, 2017 and run through Dec. 31, 2019.

Follow Jake Bleiberg at @JZBleiberg.

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