Methuen City Council Approves Use of Police Body Cameras

Methuen City Councilor James P. Jajuga raises privacy issues.

The Methuen Police Department will move forward with plans to equip 47 patrol and school officers with body-worn cameras, as well as upgrade its inventory of taser devices.

The Methuen City Council Monday unanimously approved the police department’s five-year contract agreement with Taser Internationa, Scottsdale, Ariz., to provide the cameras, tasers and other “electrical weapons” for $272,701.96. Methuen Police Chief Joseph E. Solomon told councilors findings and feedback from a 120-day pilot program, stemming from concerns in police-citizen interactions, brought positive impacts from both sides of the camera.

“The people that don’t like the cops and don’t trust the cops want it as that independent eye. The people who like the cops and support the cops think, ‘this is great for when those people question you, you’ll have some evidence.’ It’s one of the few times in my 30 years in law enforcement that I’ve actually seen both sides of the spectrum support the same methodology of additional policing,” Solomon said.

“We counted incidents where they approached a vehicle on a stop or a citizen interaction that began to get a little negative because the citizen was agitated. And when the officers announced, ‘Please be advised of officer…audio and video recording,’ they self-reported that the incident seemed to almost start to de-escalate itself. Interactions that may have been negative, the individuals changed their persona,” Solomon added.

However some councilors, including former Sen. James P. Jajuga, questioned privacy issues concerning video posted on police social media.

Jajuga: “What do you give out, what don’t you give out, how does that work with these things?

Solomon: “My opinion, I’d put everything out there. But of course, we have to be governed by public records law. I believe in showing you everything and let it shake out there. Currently there’s an amendment pending in a bill in the state legislature. If it passes, it’ll say, ‘body camera audio and video will only be subject to public information if you have standing.’ So if you’re not the suspect, the victim, the attorney, the district attorney, then you can’t see it.”

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