Hyde Park Police using grants to offset cost of body-worn cameras

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HYDE PARK – The Hyde Park Police Department has received a grant from the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) to assist the department with the purchase of body-worn cameras.  The federal grant is being supplemented by a grant from Dutchess County.

Police Chief Robert Benson applied for the federal grant in an effort to equip his department with body cams as part of the department’s modernization plan.  He said the cameras are just one more asset that will increase public trust and improve transparency.

The AXON 2 body camera worn by City of Poughkeepsie police officers.

Benson said his department is excited about deploying the body cams which he calls “A tool to be able to help prosecute offenders,” noting that they also allow officers to “document injuries in real-time,” when officers respond to certain calls such as domestic violence or abuse.

With 17 full-time sworn officers and 26 total, the cameras would be a substantial expense to the town.  The federal grant, coupled with $58,000 coming from the Dutchess County Body-Worn Camera Collaboration, the financial burden is much less.  “There is no way the town would be able to weather the cost of body-worn cameras without help from the federal government and Dutchess County,” Benson said. “I can’t pass a $100,000 tax increase per year to the town residents – I just can’t do it.”  The police department will contribute $83,000 during the cameras’ 36-month period of performance.

Benson plans to purchase 20, including four spare cameras and associated costs such as storage of the video files when starting the program.  The plan calls for each on-duty officer to be equipped with a camera.

Chief Benson had identified two models of BWCs; one from WatchGuard and one from AXON.  After lengthy deliberation, the department will be using the Axiom brand.  At the time of the grant application, WatchGuard was still being considered.  Several area departments, including the City of Poughkeepsie PD use the Axiom BWC platform.