Syracuse Police headquarters on South State Street in downtown Syracuse. Credit: Julie McMahon

The Syracuse Common Council approved Monday a contract between the city and Axon that will outfit nearly all police officers with body-worn cameras.

The contract will also upgrade the department’s current batch of body-worn cameras to have a longer battery life and allow the department to give each of its officers a camera. 

In addition to body-worn cameras, the contract will net the department more Tasers and interview room recording equipment.

Department officials have not answered questions about the contract after its approval. It’s unclear what else may be included in the contract. Before the department brought the contract to the Common Council, Chief Joe Cecile said the contract could include tethered and untethered drones.

Department officials have also not said how much each piece of technology accounts for in the cost of the contract.

The department had just $440,000 budgeted to spend on body-worn cameras for 2023-24. City officials planned to use another $290,000 in federal stimulus funds to cover body-worn camera and Taser costs. 

While the department has grants and other funding it used to cover the $731,000 gap for the next year, the contract could increase the department’s operating budget by more than $900,000 each of the following five years.

Earlier this spring, Cecile notified Mayor Ben Walsh about the need for new cameras.

The need was created by the department shifting its schedule for patrol officers from eight-hour shifts to 10-hour shifts, Cecile said. That change is expected to come later this year.

The cameras in the department’s current fleet have battery lives of only about 12 hours, which can be greatly reduced if they record video, Cecile said. 

Earlier this year, the department’s lack of cameras became a focal point of a complaint against Syracuse police. Uniyah Chatman, 25, filed a complaint against the department and officer Leonard Brown. 

Chatman alleged that Brown body-slammed her on the street and choked and hit her once she was put in a Syracuse police patrol car. After Brown arrested her, Chatman was left with multiple injuries, including a large scar on her forehead, a swollen right eye that she could not see out of and a severe head injury, she said. 

In an interview with Central Current at the time, Cecile said Brown was not wearing a body-worn camera because he normally works with a plain clothes unit and does not wear a body-worn camera. That night, Brown was working an overtime detail in uniform, according to Cecile. 

The police chief said the Syracuse Police Department had started purchasing more body-worn cameras for officers in its special investigations division and on its SWAT team prior to Chatman’s allegations. 

“This incident, however, did reemphasize our need to have all officers, uniformed and plainclothes, outfitted with (body-worn cameras),” Cecile said. 

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Chris Libonati covers government, accountability and equity. Have a tip? Contact Chris at 585-290-0718 or