A Salem police car. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

The Salem Police Department is one step closer to having body-worn cameras for its officers.

On Wednesday night, the Salem Budget Committee unanimously voted to include a body-worn and dash camera program in the city budget with the amount to be determined by Salem City Council in June.

Body-worn cameras have become widespread across the U.S. amid calls for greater police transparency.

Efforts to implement a body-worn camera program in Salem have stalled in the past because of the high price tag in the hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. The major cost associated with the system come from storing thousands of hours of data.

Last August, the city got quotes from five providers of body-worn cameras and in-car video systems based on outfitting 190 officers and 50 patrol cars.

The average upfront cost for four providers was $455,000, with another $180,000 per year for ongoing maintenance.

The last company, Axon, which makes Taser, had lower upfront costs of $185,000. but would charge about $418,000 per year to provide in-car video equipment, new body-worn cameras, and Tasers, on a rotation cycle as technology is upgraded.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Trevor Womack, Salem’s police chief, said the cameras were a standard piece of police equipment for law enforcement.

“And so, to be without it does concern me,” Womack said.

He said it adds an extra layer when trying to build trust and increase legitimacy with the community by providing transparency and accountability.

The cost estimates for the program also included $200,000 for two staff positions to pull video requests and redact sensitive information when the recordings are sought by lawyers or the public.

The city would need to have a formal bidding process to get the exact price of implementing such a program.

The Salem City Council is expected to vote to approve the budget in June.

Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]

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