Our Opinion: Williamstown is making welcome moves toward police bodycams – what’s the Pittsfield heist? – Berkshire eagle | Episode Movies


Williamstown Police Department is outfitting officers with body cameras.  Is that

After much discussion and much research, interim police chief Mike Ziemba is knee-deep working with vendors to purchase and bring body-mounted cameras to the market for city police officers.

It’s good to see that another local police department in the Berkshires is poised to adopt a relatively simple practice to prioritize transparency. Williamstown’s interim police chief Mike Ziemba’s proposal to equip local police officers with body-mounted cameras has the backing of city officials. That puts this north Berkshire town in line with several other communities across the county that are using bodycams. Great Barrington forces have been wearing them for more than a month and departments in Sheffield and Stockbridge have plans to add them to the uniform as well.

Up until a few weeks ago, it seemed like the Pittsfield Police Department was also ready to equip this modern tool to increase accountability in the interaction between police and civilians. Community members requested bodycams for PPD officers. Pittsfield officials agreed with the sentiment. While Police Chief Michael Wynn initially expressed doubts about the logistics and legality of such a policy, he said his investigation into the matter had allayed his earlier concerns and sent a letter to the City Council informing that a bodycam pilot program was ready for its impending launch.


Pittsfield Police Department unions say they cannot comment on the pause of a body camera pilot program

Then, just as Chief Wynn was due to speak before City Council about introducing the pilot, the city’s police unions raised previously unmentioned objections to the bodycam pilot. In fact, those objections are still not mentioned, as both the patrolmen’s union and the police wardens’ union still don’t specify exactly what concerns are worth postponing the launch of the pilot indefinitely. It will be interesting to see whether the police union will make body cameras a negotiating point in contract negotiations.

Body cameras bring more transparency to public safety agencies, which are armed with deadly force and need a foundation of public trust to function sanely. They give citizens better insight into the ministerial conduct of those who have sworn to serve us and protect us. That means more direct accountability when police cross the line into wrongdoing or illegal activity, but through an objective lens that can also help law enforcement directly – by clarifying, by helping, officers who are acting properly in tense or controversial circumstances , gathering evidence in public places, and by providing invaluable insight into real-world training. Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security sees the benefits of investing in this modern accountability mechanism and is providing grants to help fund local armed forces.

We are pleased that the Berkshire Police Department is also recognizing the benefits and necessity of adopting body cameras. We applauded Great Barrington for becoming the first force in the county to mandate its use for all officers on duty, and we similarly applauded the Williamstown interim chief constable for recognizing the value of a policy he as “low-hanging fruit” — an obvious and sensible way to push his department’s transparency.

Yet, as we’ve already pointed out, it’s painfully ironic that smaller Berkshire towns seem to outperform the county’s most populous city – which has the most diverse population and largest police department – when it comes to grabbing that “low-hanging fruit.” . The city’s police unions owe the Pittsfield community a long overdue explanation as to why this is the case in a measure supported by organized residents, city officials and the police chief alike. In the absence of a solid explanation, taxpayers are wondering if the main reason the unions have raided the Bodycam pilot is to use its launch terms for extra bargaining power in contract negotiations.

Giving that impression — as opposed to using bodycams — will only erode public confidence in the city police’s prioritization of transparency and accountability. That could be nipped in the bud if the city’s police unions answered one question: why the inexplicable delay in Pittsfield when other Berkshire communities, and indeed other police unions, support body cams on cops?

Leave a Comment