The Providence City Council Committee on Finance tonight approved a contract with Taser International to supply the Providence Police Department with 250 body-worn cameras (BWCs) and accompanying equipment, training, and video storage at an approximate first-year cost of $292,000. The City of Providence acquired an “economy of scale,” according to Finance Committee Chairman John Igliozzi, by piggybacking on an existing contract with the City of San Antonio, Texas. The four-year contract can, however, be terminated at will by the City of Providence.
BWCs are widely credited for contributing to officer safety and providing a new level of transparency and accountability to policing operations. In a study published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology, researchers found that when officers in Rialto, California, began wearing body cameras, use of force by officers was reduced by 59 percent, and complaints against officers dropped 87 percent. Another report by Arizona State University revealed that the addition of body worn cameras in the Mesa Police Department yielded a 48 percent reduction in citizen complaints and a 75 percent decline in the use of force complaints. Similar results were reported in San Diego, California, where the use of pepper spray by officers wearing body cameras was reduced by 31 percent.
Overall, Providence police officers who have been trained to use the body cameras have reported positive results. During an eight-week pilot program, officers tested equipment from two suppliers and gave strong preference to the Taser brand, citing superior usability and reliability. Using the officers’ feedback and numerous case studies, the Providence Police Department developed formal policies regarding usage of the equipment and footage in advance of tonight’s vote.
“This technology will bring greater safety to the citizens in need of protection and the officers that do the protecting,” said Igliozzi. The Finance Committee’s thorough vetting of the contract yielded additional incentives from Taser International; the company, which also manufactures Taser guns, has agreed to include an additional 500 Taser cartridges at no cost to the city. “It was a good contract when it first came before the Finance Committee,” said Igliozzi. “It’s an even better contract now.”
If the contract is approved by the City Council, police officers will likely begin the implementation process within a few short months. The contract is expected to appear before the full City Council in early April.