$1 for 3 months. Save 97%.
$1 for 3 months. Save 97%.

Detroit council OKs body cams for police

Charles E. Ramirez, and Christine Ferretti

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

Under the 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. Once fully implemented, the department will have about 1,500 body cams and about 450 in-car cameras.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig was at Tuesday’s council meeting said there are a lot of reasons the technology will be helpful to the city’s police officers.

“It’ll help officer safety and certainly transparency with our community, which is equally important,” he said. “It gives the community some assurance officers’ conduct will be professional and likewise protect officers against any false allegations that are made.”

The seven-member council voted unanimously to approve the measure. Pro Tem George Cushingberry Jr. and member Scott Benson were absent.

“This is probably the easiest thing on the agenda to vote for,” Councilman André Spivey said before the vote.

The approval comes a day after the body’s Public Health and Safety Standing Committee referred the proposed contract to the full council for its consideration.

Mark Diaz, president of the Detroit Police Officers Association, added the union supports the move.

“We’re good with it,” Diaz said Tuesday. “We think it will help protect our officers from false allegations against them.”

Craig said the project will start with a 60-day period in which officers and vehicles at the department’s fourth and seventh precincts will be equipped with the technology.

Officials hope to have that part of the system up and running by the end of next month.

Mayor Mike Duggan applauded the council’s action.

“It’s a major step forward for a modern police department,” he said Tuesday.

The mayor also praised the city’s police officers for embracing the technology.

“The thing I’m very proud of is that this was driven by the officers in the union,” Duggan said. “In many cities, across the country, officers are resisting the idea of body cameras. In Detroit, our officers have embraced it and that’s made it much easier to get this accomplished.”

Federal funds will be used to cover nearly 20 percent of the contract’s costs. Craig said the city recently won at $1 million federal grant to help pay for the system. The city will pick up the rest.

Police officials on Monday told the committee the department’s administration feels the system will help police improve their relationship with residents.

Duggan agrees.

“The most essential asset a police department has to have is the trust of the community,” he said. “By the end of next year, we’ll have this body cameras fully deployed and people in interactions (with police officers) will know the truth of what happened.”

They also 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.

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.

Last summer, the city and police department announced plans to launch the nation’s first integrated body and in-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 involved 20 officers from the 11th Precinct.

Craig said his department knows of no other police agency in a major U.S. city that has an integrated system.

Duggan said that was critical in getting a system for the city’s police officers.

“We took a little be longer to make sure we had the right technology,” he said.

(313) 222-2058