Detroit council to weigh $5M body cam contract for cops

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Detroit’s City Council is considering a $5.2 million contract to outfit police officers with body cams and in-vehicle cameras for squad cars.

Under the proposed five-year contract, Texas-based WatchGuard Video will provide the city with 30 body cameras and 20 in-vehicle cameras for each of its police precincts.

Police officials told the council’s Public Health and Safety Standing Committee that the department’s administration feels the system will help police improve their relationship with the city’s residents.

“That’s of utmost concern to the chief of police,” Assistant Police Chief James White told the committee. “It’s important we strengthen our relationship with the community and we feel this (technology) will enable us to do that.”

White said the body cams and in-vehicle cameras in WatchGuard’s system are made to work together. It can record footage from a police officer’s body cam and then seamlessly shift to an in-vehicle camera when he gets into a police car, he said.

“I haven’t seen any other major city’s police department with this kind of integrated technology,” White said. “Having both body cams and in-car cameras working together enhances transparency.”

The goal is to have equipment with police officers and the system up and running sometime next month, officials said.

WatchGuard Video boasts being the world’s largest manufacturer of law enforcement video systems, supplying products to nearly one-third of all police agencies in the United States and Canada. It will also provide the department with all of the needed hardware and software for the system as well as a five-year warranty, officials said.

The council committee on Monday unanimously approved forwarding the proposed contract to the entire council for its review. The full council is scheduled to next meet at 10 a.m. Tuesday in its chambers at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in downtown Detroit.

“This contract was vetted by an extensive group of people who worked hand in hand to make sure it is the best interests of the city, its police officers and its citizens,” said Boysie Jackson, the city’s chief procurement officer. “I think it’s an excellent contract.”

Jackson said the contract doesn’t cover installation of the system but a proposal is forthcoming.

This isn’t the first time the city has entertained the idea of equipping its police officers with body cams.

Last August, city and police officials announced plans to launch an integrated body and in-car camera system. The announcement followed a 90-day trial of three systems donated by WatchGuard Video competitors Tase Co., Innovative Solutions and Data 911. The trial began in March and involved 20 officers from the 11th Precinct.

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