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

Syracuse police officials want to sign a new five-year contract with body-worn camera company Axon that’s worth $6.8 million. 

The contract would 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. 

Deputy Chief Richard Trudell said Wednesday the contract would give “virtually” every officer a body-worn camera. 

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

Police department officials pitched the contract at Wednesday’s Common Council meeting. The Common Council will vote Monday on the contract. 

It’s unclear 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. 

The city will have to use a batch of grants to cover the rest of the cost of the contract for the next year, if the Syracuse Common Council approves the contract. 

In all, the contract would increase the department’s operating budget by at least $600,000 in the four years beyond 2024.  

The city still had a year left on its contract with Axon for its body-worn cameras, according to Auditor Nader Maroun.

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

The need, Cecile said, was created by the department shifting its schedule for patrol officers from eight-hour shifts to 10-hour shifts. 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. 

Cecile would like to upgrade the cameras to a newer version with a battery life of 16 hours in hopes the cameras are more likely to last an entire shift, Cecile said. Deputy Chief Richard Shoff said Wednesday the new body-worn cameras would come with chargers that could go in officers’ patrol cars. 

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 libonati@centralcurrent.org.