The Provincetown Police Department will be deploying body-worn cameras (BWC) on all sworn law enforcement officers, beginning no later than December 1, 2023. This significant step toward additional transparency and accountability comes after years of careful consideration and aligns with the Massachusetts police reform law passed in 2020. Implementing a body-worn camera program for the police department is also one of Provincetown’s FY 2024 town-wide goals.
This initiative was set in motion following the release of a comprehensive report by the State task force on police body-worn cameras on August 2, 2022. The Provincetown Police Department, already contemplating the adoption of BWCs awaited the task force's recommendations, reviewed the report, drafted a policy incorporating many of its recommendations, and procured the necessary equipment.
“I want to thank the department for taking the initiative to implement cameras as part of the Town’s commitment to greater transparency and accountability for our police,” said Town Manager Alex B. Morse. “I believe this will help build trust within the community, strengthen officer performance, improve staff accountability and will further enhance the professional standards upheld by our department."
Under normal operating conditions, the BWC will display a red light to indicate recording. Pursuant to departmental policy, officers are required to make a reasonable effort to notify subjects that they are being recorded, if feasible. The video will not be monitored live, and footage will only be uploaded to the server at the end of an officer’s shift. The department acknowledges the newness of this technology and will conduct daily reviews by shift supervisors for the first 90 days and weekly reviews by the Deputy Chief to ensure compliance.
The introduction of BWCs is expected to enhance the department's ability to document and review incidents, preserving crucial audio and video information for investigative and prosecutorial purposes. It is important to note that BWC recordings provide a limited perspective and must be considered alongside other available evidence. Studies have shown that BWCs contribute to a reduction in complaints against police officers, increased accountability, and enhanced public trust.
For the initial 90 days, officers will not face discipline for policy violations, allowing them to acclimate to the new technology. After this period, the department will conduct periodic quality assurance reviews, with an annual audit to ensure ongoing compliance.
“The Provincetown Police Department is dedicated to serving and protecting the community with integrity and professionalism,” said Police Chief James Golden. “The deployment of body-worn cameras is a testament to our commitment to accountability and transparency.”
Body-worn cameras have been in place in the Wellfleet Police Department for approximately 18 months and are used by the Massachusetts State Police and many other law enforcement agencies across Massachusetts.
The Provincetown Police Department’s complete body-worn camera policy can be found at https://www.provincetown-ma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/16975.