Southfield police deploy body cams for all sworn officers

By: Brian Louwers | Southfield Sun | Published September 8, 2020

 The Axon body-worn cameras are designed to be mounted on any uniform worn by Southfield police, from tactical patrol to administrative leadership. Acting Deputy Chief Jeff Jagielski displays the camera Aug. 31.

The Axon body-worn cameras are designed to be mounted on any uniform worn by Southfield police, from tactical patrol to administrative leadership. Acting Deputy Chief Jeff Jagielski displays the camera Aug. 31.

Photo by Brian Louwers

 Officers Sara Bond and Arthur Bridgeport, of the Southfield Police Department, display the Axon body-worn cameras Aug. 31, now standard equipment for all of the department’s officers.

Officers Sara Bond and Arthur Bridgeport, of the Southfield Police Department, display the Axon body-worn cameras Aug. 31, now standard equipment for all of the department’s officers.

Photo by Brian Louwers

Advertisement

SOUTHFIELD — It is now the policy of the Southfield Police Department that all interactions between the public and any of its 126 sworn officers will be captured on a body-worn camera.

But officials said the devices will do more than record video. Southfield Police Chief Elvin V. Barren said they’ll build trust, provide accountability on both sides of the lens, protect officers through GPS locators and afford residents an opportunity to securely share photos, video and audio evidence with law enforcement.

“We made a commitment to this community roughly a year ago that we would have the body-worn cameras outfitted and deployed before the end of the summer, and today we are very excited to say to this community that we are able to keep our commitment and our promise,” Barren told reporters at a press conference Aug. 31.

“Acquiring body-worn cameras enhances community trust, manages perceptions of police legitimacy and transparency, and what it does is change behaviors on both sides of the camera, so if there’s anything questionable, we will be able to show the video. If we need to improve our tactics, we’ll make those adjustments. If we need to defend our actions, we will show the video, as well, to let the community know in full transparency what happened and what we’re doing to manage the result of that incident,” Barren said.

The Axon Enterprises Inc. cameras are always working in the field and video buffering captures and also saves the 30 seconds immediately before an activation. Because Axon, formerly Taser International Inc., also makes the department’s Tasers, the cameras activate whenever the stun guns are deployed. The body-worn cameras can also eventually be integrated with the department’s vehicle dash cameras, which are currently serviced through another vendor.

GPS locating allows the cameras to show the exact location of an officer.

A “citizen assist” feature allows residents, business owners and witnesses to relay evidence including photos, video or audio to a responding officer through a secure link shared in an app.

The system also features redaction technology, allowing police to address privacy concerns and protect the public by omitting faces, addresses, license plates or other sensitive materials.

“The policy of the Southfield Police Department will be that if there’s any interaction with the community, that the body-worn cameras will be activated to capture that activity and the interaction,” Barren said. Asked about the timing of the body-worn camera roll out, he added, “It should have happened years ago, quite frankly. Body-worn camera technology has been in existence for some time. This is where we are in policing: transparency, showing what happened in the field to encourage community trust, manage perceptions.”

Union leadership and police officers present at the press conference echoed the chief’s sentiments.

“I think it’s just transparency. You can go back and show what actually happened,” Southfield police Officer Arthur Bridgeport said. “It helps with report writing. You become a better report writer.

“This technology is something you would love to have. We’re a professional department. That’s the way policing is evolving and growing. Just like back in the day, they didn’t have all of this gear. As everything progresses, you add more things because it’s necessary, so it’s just a necessary tool for the job,” Bridgeport said.   

The Southfield City Council included body-worn cameras in its approved budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, according to City Councilman Daniel Brightwell. He said the City Council and the administration were “100 percent” behind the $1.5 million expenditure over the next five years.

“I think it’s a wonderful tool. I think we, the council and the city, we make sure our officers are equipped with the latest tools, and this is an excellent tool for law enforcement, and also for public relations,” Brightwell said. “With everything that’s going on, we want to make sure we’re transparent and well equipped and trained.”

Advertisement