EMU police to begin using body-worn cameras soon

The Eastern Michigan University Department of Public Safety plans to acquire and implement body-worn cameras early in the coming year, to further aid the EMU police in ensuring the safety and security of the University's students, staff and faculty.

The EMU Department of Public Safety has been monitoring the development of body-worn camera technology and assessing its benefits, which are now well documented in independent research, policy analysis and program evaluations, said Bob Heighes, executive director of public safety and chief of police at Eastern Michigan.

The cameras will be used in conjunction with the department's existing in-car video system.

"Using the two systems together provides a more thorough and complete documentation of public contacts during our response to both critical and more routine calls for service," Heighes said.

The body-worn cameras will also be used by officers on foot patrol, bicycle patrol, and other activity not occurring near or around a police vehicle equipped with in-car video.

Heighes said the added documentation provided by body-worn cameras reduces service complaints, improves evidence management and increases the likelihood of a speedy resolution to investigations and court cases.

EMU student body president Desmond Miller said, "I am gratified that our Department of Public Safety continuously does whatever it can to help increase the safety for students. By wearing body cameras, this will contribute to conducting investigations, as well as continuing to strengthen the trust our police have built among our students. This is just one of many safety and security improvements I have observed during my time as a student leader."

The only other universities in Michigan whose police currently wear body-worn cameras are the University of Michigan-Flint, Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan Tech University in Houghton, and Baker College in Muskegon. The Ypsilanti Police Department and the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office have also recently announced plans to acquire body-worn cameras.

Last summer, those two agencies and EMU announced their participation in the Eastern Washtenaw Safety Alliance, a coalition of top area officials and law enforcement leaders aimed at expanding crime fighting in the eastern Washtenaw region.

Among the features of the alliance are expanded patrols of the neighborhoods surrounding the EMU campus on its north, south, east and west borders, where a concentration of EMU students and staff live. In addition, EMU police are fully deputized in Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County and can make arrests beyond campus boundaries.

Heighes said that the cameras will be deployed early next year. The purchase of 43 new body-worn cameras with supporting equipment will cost an estimated total of $17,000, Heighes said.

The cameras are part of the University's ongoing focus on maintaining EMU's safe campus and enhancing safety and security around the campus as well.

This fall, EMU hired three police officers who are part of a planned overall increase of 10 officers this academic year. Four were hired during this past summer, with three more set to be hired early next year. The increased staffing will give Eastern Michigan a University record of 43 fully professional, deputized officers.

The EMU police force takes pride in its diversity and reflects the rich diversity of the University. Minorities make up 31 percent of the police force and are included in command and patrol ranks. Women make up roughly 25 percent of the force.

Eastern remains one of the safest campuses among all of Michigan's 15 public universities, as shown in recent comparative statistics with its peers.

Other recent safety measures at Eastern include:

- The University's 2014-15 general fund and capital budgets include $1.7 million in funding for safety and security improvements. Those enhancements include paying for the new officers on staff, renovation of DPS headquarters to accommodate new staff, and funds for additional surveillance cameras and extra lighting around campus.

- Additional security cameras are being added to the more than 600 that already blanket campus, with a high-tech police command center in DPS headquarters that is operated 24/7.

- Eastern has worked with DTE Energy to add new perimeter lighting in the Leforge Road area north of campus, and along Huron River Drive, stretching back west to Cornell Road and in the Westview Apartment Complex. EMU has also added lighting along Oakwood Street on the western edge of campus.

- Expanded the hours of the SEEUS campus escort service, which provides services to students, faculty and staff on campus after dark and overnight. More than 50 student employees are on call to escort students, faculty and staff around campus at night and overnight (during the academic year).

- Eastern has worked with private rental properties in the area to press for further safety measures in those complexes. Several complexes have committed to added surveillance cameras, emergency call stations, and better security systems.

- A website has been established for students considering living off campus, with a safety checklist that renters should ask of landlords. The website includes links to EMU public safety resources, crime maps, bus schedules, renter's guides and housing reviews. Landlords who want to participate in an annual off-campus housing fair must complete a safety checklist.

- The full scope of Eastern Michigan University's comprehensive safety and security measures, including an overview video, can be found at www.emich/edu/police.

Published: Thu, Dec 11, 2014

Comments

  1. No comments
Sign in to post a comment »