Police to launch body-worn camera system

 By Andrew Dodson

The Bay City Times
BAY CITY, Mich. (AP) — Some Bay City police officers could be using body-worn cameras as early as the new year in an effort to increase transparency in the department and reduce residential complaints.
At a Bay City Commission finance and policy committee meeting on Oct. 20, Bay City Public Safety Director Michael J. Cecchini said his department will launch a 90-day pilot program within the next couple of months to test body-worn camera systems by at least two different vendors. The department was originally looking at in-car dashboard systems, but said body-worn systems are considerably less expensive and further cut down on residential complaints, citing two different studies, according to The Bay City Times.

“When people realize they’re being video-taped, they tend to be on their best behavior,” Cecchini said.

A draft procedural policy is being finalized, Cecchini said, and would need to be approved by the department’s labor union within 30 days. There would be no cost to the city during the trial period.

Costs for an entire system are still unclear, but Cecchini estimates a base system to cost about $30,000, plus an additional $15,000 to $20,000 for the data management side of the system.

Cecchini said several officers are excited about the possibility of the camera system and has several officers who have offered to test the system.

“This type of system is highly sought after,” he said.

There are primarily two styles of body-worn cameras, Cecchini said, including a halo-type design that officers wear on their head; the camera is positioned over an officer’s ear. The other style is a camera device attached to the lapel of an officer’s uniform. A remote control, likely worn on the belt, would activate the camera.

Commissioner Elizabeth Peters questioned how the department would deal with officers who don’t turn on the camera system. Cecchini said officers would be trained to activate the camera.

“If not activating the camera was done intentionally, then we would have some problems,” he said.

The camera systems the city is exploring would require officers to plug the device into a charging station at the end of a shift, which would download the day’s footage onto a server. The city would likely contract with a cloud service provider.

Following the trial period, Cecchini said he would make a recommendation to the City Commission for purchase.

Bay City Manager Rick Finn said the city is looking for grant opportunities to cover part of the cost for the system.

“I think it’s time our city starts seriously looking at this,” Finn said. “I don’t think grants will fund the entire program, but I hope it secures a fairly large percentage of the cost.”

A camera system for the public safety department was initially recommended by City Commissioner Christopher Girard.

“I think it’ll be beneficial to the community and I look forward to seeing the results of the pilot program,” he said.


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