SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Technical Community College Police Department has begun wearing body cameras to increase transparency regarding officers’ interactions with the public.

The 15 cameras were purchased following the department’s award of a U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance grant in 2021, which totaled approximately $48,000 to $50,000, STCC Chief of Police and Senior Director of Public Safety Jose Rivera told Reminder Publishing. The department chose to purchase body-worn cameras with this grant in response to the growing emphasis of transparency within police departments, he stated.

“For us, a big driver was the police reform that’s occurred in Massachusetts after George Floyd,” Rivera said. He explained that police departments across the state have begun using cameras to create greater transparency after Floyd was publicly killed by a Minneapolis police officer during the course of his arrest in 2020.

For the STCC police, the purchase of these cameras was specifically possible because of the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance’s support, which utilized the grant to encourage departments to seek these tools. Since the department was awarded the grant, its staff have worked to research and select the cameras as well as to construct policies concerning the use of them, Rivera said.

Officers first began wearing the cameras during the first week of March, Rivera said. Additionally, Rivera, Deputy Chief Chester Degray and Lt. Nick Matthess also wear cameras.

Per the department’s policy, the cameras are worn at all times and mounted to the “outermost garment somewhere in the chest area,” often on an officer’s protective vest. When interacting with any member of the public outside of the department, an officer manually begins recording with the camera, Rivera explained.

“We don’t have a history of complaints with my department, fortunately, but I think that in the event that there would be a complaint, we would have … an impartial review of the complaint through the use of the body [cameras]. So, I think in terms of transparency, it would go a long way,” he said.

When asked about the impact of body cameras on student and faculty’s perspective of campus police, Rivera stated that he has not seen an impact, saying, “So far, we haven’t seen much of a reaction. It’s sort of like the cameras went on and everyone went about their day.”

Rivera emphasized that maintaining consistent, positive interactions with the public was an important role of the STCC Police Department on campus. “My philosophy here has been one of community policing,” he said. “I think that the officers on this campus have a very good understanding of that philosophy to really take the time to interact with our community … [and] try to foster positive relationships at any opportunity.”

Other services provided by the STCC police on campus include monitoring crime, assisting with medical emergencies, assessing public safety, offering safety escorts and maintaining fire alarm systems, according to the department.

Officers are available 24 hours a day throughout the entire year. The STCC Police Department can be contacted by phone at 413-755-4220.