he Detroit City Council voted unanimously to approve a contract that would implement police body cameras in Detroit. The $5.2 million decision was made in an attempt to increase transparency in the department and to protect both officers and civilians.
Starting in June, 50 officers will be testing the use of the cameras in the 4th and 7th precincts, in addition to 20 new in-vehicle camera units. These will be in place and assessed for 60 days.
Texas-based WatchGuard Video, the company supplying the cameras, is the world’s largest manufacturer of law enforcement video systems. Their products are used in agencies across the country including some in Southeast Michigan, like the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department and the River Rouge Police Department.
Officers will be able to activate the camera system manually, but the camera’s are also automatically triggered on events like when the car reaches certain speeds, when the emergency lights are activated, when the cars rear doors are opened and on impact. The in-unit cameras will record the front of the patrol vehicle, and the back seat.
The cameras feature a patent-pending technology that allows the camera to record video in background when the camera isn’t triggered by the officer or an event. The WatchGuard Video website gave this scenario, which they indicated took place in Michigan, where their “record-after-the-fact” technology was successfully used.
“A Deputy was responding to a domestic disturbance call, when a 41 year old man came out of his house wielding a golf club. After the suspect began to attack the Deputy with the golf club, the Deputy was forced to shoot and kill the suspect. The Deputy’s WatchGuard system was not actively recording during the incident, however, the attack and shooting were captured on the system’s hard drive. Record-After-the-Fact video was created after the shooting and, once the video was reviewed by the County Prosecutor, the Deputy was cleared of any wrongdoing.”
Police Chief James Craig says in a statement that these cameras will help improve trust and transparency between the Detroit Police Department and the public.
“This new system will allow us to document every encounter our officers have with a member of the public. This was a process that was initiated and led by officers themselves and they are in full support of this new platform,” Craig says.
If all goes well during the trial period, they will begin implementing the remainder of the 1500 body cameras and 450 in-vehicle units among all the patrol and investigative officers in Detroit beginning in August.