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The Yankee Express

Webster Police Body Cameras Provide Dual Protection

From left: Officer Steven Cacciapouti, Officer Robert Rockwood, Chief Michael Shaw, Officer David Brooks

By Janet Stoica

Since March of this year, Webster police officers have been using body cameras. “We were able to obtain a $54,000 state grant to get the program started,” said Webster Police Chief Michael Shaw, “and the new equipment has been used well for the past two months. We discussed obtaining the new equipment in 2023 when our police union’s collective bargaining was in process of negotiation and the union agreed to consider the cameras. A couple of our sergeants did their research and then wrote up a policy. The union came to an agreement about it and we are now using the body cameras successfully.”
Chief Shaw mentioned that the cameras are very beneficial in reducing complaints about officers although there has never really been any serious complaint issues. “A few years ago, I wasn’t really in favor of the body cam use,” he said, “but after reviewing and speaking with our officers and hearing no push back, I saw that our group was accepting of it. We show footage on our social media sites so anyone can observe our body cam information.” Using body cameras protects not only the people being recorded but also the police officers.
One of the major issue for body cameras is having enough storage for the audio/video which is simply solved by using cloud storage instead of a server rack which takes up physical storage space in-house. Eventually, replacement of service racks is necessary and cloud storage takes care of the service rack expense. The body cameras are always on and when a situation arises for the officer to approach a service setting, they turn on the audio which is of major importance in establishing a true record. Cloud storage is always secure and can only be accessed by the Webster Police Department. 
“The audio/video recording is very useful for every call whether it’s use of force, driving under the influence, or any other officer intervention,” stated Chief Shaw, “statements can be taken on scene from citizens and witnesses without their need to visit the police station. We use the body cameras every day and refer to them on a regular basis.” Recently officers stopped a vehicle for drug possession and the audio/video was instrumental in showing that all officer activity was lawful and within the scope of their authority. Statements are issued about the audio/video being in use and a red light flashes from the body camera making it obvious that a recording is in progress. “The use of our body cameras will also show all the good activity that our officers do including situations like the recent event of the location of the 3-year-old autistic child found at the French River,” said the Chief. (The French River occurrence happened before the use of body cameras began.) The Police Department budgeted for 33 body cameras within the scope of the grant’s award.
Additionally, at the recent Webster town meeting in May, the department will be funded for 3 new police cruisers, replacement of 10-year-old devices in the areas of 10 portable hand-held radios, outdoor building cameras, and their antiquated phone system. Information technology is of paramount importance as well. “We’re a pretty young department,” said Chief Shaw, “and we’re always incorporating our officers’ insight and feedback. Having their input is very important. Soon, we’ll be starting a drone unit using asset forfeiture from drug dealers. Using the proceeds from the cash confiscated from drug deals has enabled us to begin the new drone program. Each drone is valued at $15,000. We are also looking forward to a second police dog for narcotics detection, have a new officer beginning policy academy training in July, and have two officers in field training at present.”  Other programs that the Webster Police officers take part in are community policing, a basketball program, and the National Night Out which is one of the most popular community events with a barbecue at Memorial Beach.