Body cameras, vehicles in West Chester’s $30.8M safety services spend

The West Chester Twp. trustees are close to approving the purchase of police body cameras, in addition to $1 million worth of police and fire vehicles already approved.

Trustee Board President Mark Welch said this year the township will spend $30.8 million on safety services, which is 69 percent of their entire operational budget.

Welch told the Journal-News they are expecting to hear a final report from Police Chief Joel Herzog at their meeting in September, but as far as he is concerned body cameras are a done deal.

“This is an approved expenditure for 2017…,” Welch said. “It is going to happen, this is budgeted and this is something that we feel that we need for everyone for safety. Not only for the police officers, but the residents and the thousands of people that come into West Chester every day to work.”

The trustees budgeted $125,000 for the cameras this year, but Herzog voiced some reservations when he made his budget presentation in January.

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“We are exploring the implementation of body worn cameras to meet the community expectations for transparency and to serve as a critical training tool,” he said. “I appreciate the patience the board has shown during this process. The acquisition and implementation of body worn cameras has continually been studied while we waited for the courts to consider their application from a public records and enforcement standpoint.”

Herzog said he didn’t want to say anything about the issue until the trustees have a chance to review his recommendations. Trustee Lee Wong agreed with Welch.

“We are going to move forward with obtaining the body cams,” Wong said. “After all this testing, we have selected a good company.”

He added that a new law regarding records retention never came to fruition so they no longer have to worry about that issue.

Trustee George Lang said he didn’t want to voice his opinion until he hears the final word from the police chief.

The trustees have already approved about $1 million worth of police and fire vehicles, including a new ladder fire truck.

The township had budgeted $800,000 for the new Quint and it came in at $799,456.

Welch said they are replacing a 20-year-old fire truck that has the equivalent of over 1 million miles on it, according to the formula that takes into account idling time.

“The fact is it’s old, it was going to be replaced several years ago but budget constraints didn’t allow it,” Welch said. “Now it’s going to be put in reserve use for another five years.”

The budget for police vehicles was $450,000, but the township is only buying seven, not 10 police cars so the price was $207,519. Interim Township Administrator Larry Fronk said they didn’t really need 10 vehicles, but the seven they are replacing need to go.

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“They have pushed their vehicles further than their life expectancy,” Fronk said. “This is also a necessary expenditure.”

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