The Portland Police Department will hold two public meetings this week about its plan to begin equipping its officers with body cameras.

Police Chief Michael Sauschuck described the introduction of body cameras as a “big change” for the community. He plans to kick off each 90-minute session with a presentation, before opening it to questions.

“We want this to be educational and talk about the policy and how we got here,” Sauschuck said. “And I want to get input from the community.”

Body cameras are designed to increase transparency in policing, but concerns have been raised over privacy.

Last month, Sauschuck unveiled a draft policy that would establish procedures for when the cameras must be turned on and off. It also would establish guidelines for storing and accessing video recordings.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and the Maine NAACP were encouraged by the city’s initial draft policy after it was presented. But they also said that more work needed to be done to ensure the cameras were not used to gather information about people attending public rallies, among other things.

Sauschuck said in an interview that the department is currently reviewing recommendations offered by community groups in face-to-face meetings. He predicted that the policy would continue to be a work in progress.

Sauschuck told city councilors in February that officers will begin testing eight cameras as part of a pilot program by April 1. An additional 100 cameras are expected to be purchased as part of next year’s budget and rolled out in the fall.

City officials secured $26,000 in grant funds from the Department of Justice last April to purchase eight cameras for the pilot program. That initial funding was expected to be followed by a $400,000 investment in the technology in the next budget.

The first meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Deering High School cafeteria. The second will be at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in Rines Auditorium at the Portland Public Library.

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

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