Police matters at the Ulster Town Board meeting last week included proposed policy guidelines for the wearing of body worn cameras, and a contract for the purchase of new mobile radios.
During the meeting held on Thursday, February 3, Police Chief Kyle Berardi said the modifications to the policy guidelines for body worn cameras, known colloquially as body cams, came out of the town’s Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative Committee.
“We have been utilizing in-car cameras for as long as I’ve been here, for 20 years,” said Berardi. “But they wanted to enhance transparency like we’re seeing across the country, so it came at a perfect time.”
Berardi said the department’s in-car cameras were at the end of their usable life, so the change allowed for an upgrade. The current setup records both body cam and dashboard camera footage simultaneously.
“That went into full effect in December of last year,” Berardi said. “This policy solidifies the proper use, maintenance, storage and dissemination of all that data that we gather.”
The policy covers the responsibilities of uniformed patrol officers for ensuring their body cams are in use and operating correctly, as well as when they should be activated. These situations include calls to crimes in progress, investigative actions where there are interactions with members of the public, traffic stops, and any contact that becomes adversarial after the initial contact did not otherwise require recording.
The policy also details when body cams can be temporarily deactivated, including during conversations with confidential informants, when officers are conducting strip-searches, or when a member of the public requests a deactivation.
“This is a presentation of the proposed policy,” said Supervisor James E. Quigley, III. “It is available in the Town of Ulster’s website for the public to review. I would encourage the community to become familiar with it so you understand how responsive the Town of Ulster Police Department is being in this matter.”
Sole source contract for radios
Later in the meeting, the Town Board approved a $104,611 contract with Poughkeepsie-based New York Communications Company (NYCOMCO) for the purchase of 21 mobile radios after they were informed by the company that they will no longer maintain their current outdated system.
“Our current radios are 20-plus years old, and they’re no longer looking to service those just because of components and parts,” said Berardi, adding that NYCOMCO will maintain the current system until the new radios are operational.
“We’re probably looking at (delivery) late this year, and within service the first quarter of next year,” Berardi said. ““Unfortunately, the radios and the technology part of it are being delayed just like every other product out there.”
Quigley said the nature of the network precludes the town from seeking other options.
“NYCOMCO provides the radio frequencies and the digital channel by which we connect to those radio frequencies,” Quigley said. “They also own the towers that these frequencies are broadcast from. So this qualifies as a sole source contract to NYCOMCO.”
According to the NYCOMCO contract, the 21 radios cost $1,995 apiece, with each requiring enhanced digital access communication system cards at a cost of $1,140. Other per-radio costs include control units for $620, three-year warranties for $180, connection kits for $185, cables for $140, microphones for $80, speakers for $26, antennas for $89, and installation for $26 each. The contract also includes a $10,500 on-site service arrangement.