The push to equip all Topsham police officers with body cameras took a leap forward Thursday night.

The town’s select board unanimously approved spending $62,500 to purchase body cameras, as well as an additional $20,831 in years going forward.

“At this point, the camera systems are considered an expectation of the public,” said Topsham Police Chief Marc Hagan. “Having a camera system not only in a cruiser but on an officer’s body is proven to reduce citizen complaints, as well as the use-of-force incidences.”

When people know they are on camera, both law enforcement and the citizens they interact with tend to behave better, Hagan added.

As of 2016, about 47% of the country’s 15,328 general-purpose law enforcement agencies had body cameras, according to a 2018 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. That number has increased further in recent years, especially in the wake of protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

Massachusetts state police piloted a program in 2019 and began agency-wide implementation this spring. According to a report in Portland Press Herald, Vermont began the research phase of body cameras in 2015 and only rolled the program out last year.


The BodyWorn cameras purchased by Topsham automatically start recording when certain events happen — such as the police cruiser’s door opening or a gun being removed from an officer’s holster. It also has a host of safety features that alert dispatchers and nearby officers if an officer is involved in a struggle.

“If an officer gets into a physical altercation or a motor vehicle crash, we can look back at the camera footage and see what led to that,” said Hagan. “These cameras are also built-in with GPS tracker. If an officer ends up in a foot chase and is unable to answer the radio, we will be able to track the officer through the GPS.”

Hagan added that these cameras would also provide an increase in training opportunities and are well supervised. These cameras have proven to reduce municipal and civil liabilities.

The camera fits into a pocket sewn under the button placket, which holds a quarter-size grommet for the lens.

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