Body Cams Likely To Be In Use By Local Police, Sheriff’s Deputies This Summer
After nearly a year of research and extensive field testing by MPs, plus pressure from community stakeholders such as Northern Michigan Antiracism Task Force E3, Grand Traverse County’s officers on Wednesday approved the purchase of body cameras for the Grand Traverse Sheriff’s office. With Traverse City officials approving a similar move for the city police in October, Grand Traverse County’s city and county law enforcement agencies will soon be fully equipped with on-site body cameras.
The County Commissioners unanimously agreed to a recommendation by the Sheriff’s Office to spend up to $ 85,000 for the first year and $ 50,000 annually for years two to five to land a contract with manufacturer Axon to purchase an estimated 70 body cameras for the department. Sheriff Tom Bensley said that number would be enough to equip more than 52 officers and have cameras available for security. Under the contract, the cameras would be upgraded with brand new devices after a few years.
Law enforcement equipment is becoming “standard” – nearly half of police departments in the US are already using cameras and more departments are implementing them, according to a report prepared by a sheriff’s office committee formed last June to investigate body cameras Every day. Equipment costs, potential savings and public perception are, according to the report, “just some of the considerations” that departments must weigh when using cameras.
The Sheriff’s Office has completed five-week trials with two of the industry’s leading manufacturers, Axon and Getac Video Solutions. The latter was selected as the provider for the Traverse City Police Department. According to the committee’s report, the sheriff’s office deputies and sergeants who tested the equipment unanimously preferred Axon to Getac. Axon – whose original product and company name was Taser, the stun gun, supplies body cameras to more than half of the country’s 1,200 largest police stations. The largest customer is the Los Angeles Police Department with 7,545 cameras.
According to Axon, body cameras can help “reduce false complaints, reduce the use of force, improve suspect behavior and improve the quality of evidence collected, increase public confidence … (and) litigation and increase agency cost savings. ”While the Sheriff’s Office’s own research found that the effects of cameras on the use of force are“ less certain, ”benefits such as reduced citizen complaints and improved evidence collection are clearer The committee’s report found that in a five-week period of testing six cameras on-site in Grand Traverse County, the sheriff’s office “acquired over 600 items of evidence, including … videos, photos and audio recordings.”
This evidence will usher in a new era in which law enforcement and the courts operate locally, potentially speeding up cases, relieving officials and increasing accountability for vulnerable populations sensitive to issues of police brutality and excessive violence. “The prosecution (Noelle Moeggenberg) is very excited about body cameras for their law enforcement,” said Bensley on Wednesday. “She believes this will help her law enforcement a lot in some cases.”
While Moeggenberg previously told The Ticker that body cameras are “the way of the future,” he also noted that they will significantly increase the workload for their department, including employees who process evidence of discoveries and must handle the Freedom of Information Act (FOAI) . Media and public inquiries. Moeggenberg plans to seek approval from the commissioners to add one more full-time employee to their department to cope with the increased workload, a request Bensley supports.
Meanwhile, some commissioners asked Bensley how the department would determine exactly when cameras should be on. Bensley said the current policy is to turn them on whenever officers interact with the public, even though officers’ equipment is turned on and off manually – the cameras don’t run automatically. Commission chairman Rob Hentschel hoped officials would have “a degree of discretion” with the cameras on, noting that recorded footage is FOIA controlled and that some members of the public – like those who do give tips or information to officers – this may not want to be recorded. Moeggenberg previously told The Ticker that there are situations where cameras are either turned off or the footage is edited, for example in schools and hospitals or when interviewing victims of sexual assault or domestic violence.
Bensley said the department’s guidelines could be reviewed and refined, and that officials and public safety would be paramount in capturing footage in an emergency situation. “When a situation arises where the officer is at risk, he or she takes himself or the public first,” Bensley said. “The camera comes second.” Even so, the sheriff said he wanted to avoid situations where the department was criticized for lack of camera footage. “We are very conscious of the fact sometimes … it just might not work and it couldn’t be recorded and that was one of our concerns,” he said. “We think if it doesn’t work in a certain situation we will be criticized, but it is technology and it is not guaranteed.”
Funding is available to purchase a $ 85,000 camera from the County Capital Improvement Fund, according to County Administrator Nate Alger. The Sheriff’s Office also plans to apply for grant funding from the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority – the county’s insurer – to potentially offset the initial costs, including digital storage. According to a representative for the vendor, the Axon cameras are expected to arrive at the sheriff’s office within 30 to 45 days of ordering the equipment.