Northampton City Council Finance Committee debates social responsibility, special legislation on dashcam contract

NORTHAMPTON — The City Council’s Finance Committee says it needs more time to consider a “social responsibility rubric” related to a proposal to upgrade the Northampton Police Department’s dashboard cameras.

During its meeting Tuesday, the committee also explored the idea of requesting special procurement legislation from the state.

Following a public outcry over data privacy and the tech company Motorola Solutions potentially facilitating human rights abuses, the City Council last week tasked the Finance Committee with developing social responsibility standards that vendors should meet before the city considers contracting with them. But city solicitor Alan Seewald told the committee that the state Legislature needs to act first.

Seewald added that Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra could sign a three-year dashcam contract with Motorola Solutions “tomorrow” under her current authority, but the proposed five-year contract requires the approval of an order by the City Council. The contract has not been written yet; terms could only be negotiated after the full council passes the order.

Ashwin Ravikumar, an activist and assistant professor at Amherst College, said that the city will not be able to find a socially responsible vendor because dashcams “are basically never used to help anyone. They are fundamentally used to increase criminalization, increase harm.”

The community’s concerns, he said, are “deeper” than looking for the right vendor, and citizens do not…

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