Chief: Inkster cops to wear body cameras, carry Tasers

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Officers in the Inkster Police Department soon will start wearing body cameras and carrying Tasers, police chief William Riley III told The Detroit News.

Riley said 35 body cameras already have been purchased, but needs software installed. He hopes to have that done and the cameras on the street in the next “30, 40 days.”

The timeline for the Tasers is less certain. Not only does the department need to receive them — “they’re a hot item right now as departments look for nonlethal ways to handle confrontations,” Riley said — it needs to train officers on how to use them.

Inkster’s Tasers, 30 of which have been ordered, and body cameras were paid for with a mix of grant funds and proceeds from asset forfeiture, Riley said.

Two other grants will allow the department to order four new police cars and upgrade the department’s radio system, which is so old that replacement parts can’t be found when equipment goes down, Riley said.

The new cars are expected to arrive by July 1.

Inkster City Councilman Jewell Jones, 21, said he hoped the body cameras “allow citizens to feel a little safer out there.”

Jones was elected to City Council in November. He and the police chief are both relatively new to their jobs, though Jones says the early signs regarding Riley are positive.

“(Riley is) bringing in new revenue and resources,” Jones said. “They’re not only working hard with what they have, they’re getting creative.”

Jones said he believes the Tasers are a strong complement to the guns officers carry, and will offer additional opportunities for police to neutralize threats to public safety without using lethal force.

Editorial: Police body cams good for officers, citizens

Riley sees the body cameras as a means of safeguarding the public and his own officers. That’s how they worked when he was police chief in Selma, Alabama, he said.

One incident from his time in Selma — the December 2013 fatal police shooting of an ax-wielding 74-year-old man, Ananias Shaw — underscored the need for both body cameras, which the department had at the time, and Tasers, which it did not, Riley said.

A difference between police and eyewitness accounts was refuted by tape showing Shaw refused multiple orders to put the ax down and was only shot when he moved toward the officer in a threatening fashion.

Though Riley believed the shooting was justified, as the officer was in danger, he also believed that if his officers had a nonlethal means available, such as a Taser, Shaw could have been subdued rather than killed. So he pushed for the department to get Tasers, which they did with the help of a state senator.

Inkster Police Department has 26 sworn officers and 30 auxiliary officers. Inkster police serve about 18,000 911 call runs a year, Riley said.