Sheriff’s department rolling out body cameras

By: Thomas Franz | C&G Newspapers | Published April 18, 2017

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MACOMB COUNTY — After being approved by the Macomb County Board of Commissioners the week of April 12, officers in the Macomb County Sheriff’s Department are due to be sporting some new equipment this week.

The cameras were originally budgeted for purchase last year, but a delay caused the board to approve a budget amendment to move funds allocated for 2016 to this year.

Captain David Daniels, of the Sheriff’s Office, said the department has taken delivery of all 200 cameras and related equipment, and that deputies were scheduled to be equipped with them as soon as April 17, after press time.

“I’m confident we have the right vendor and the most recent technology,” Daniels said during a Board of Commissioners Justice and Public Safety meeting April 12.

Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said 114 officers would be equipped with body cameras April 17, after press time.

The cameras will primarily be turned off, Wickersham said, but the Sheriff’s Office has created a policy so that whenever there is a citizen encounter, deputies are required to activate the cameras.

Daniels said the cameras will also be activated whenever a patrol car’s lights and siren is turned on.

Exceptions to the rules for cameras being activated include juvenile situations or when there’s a privacy issue if a complainant doesn’t want to be recorded on video.

The cameras also have the ability to record after the fact, Daniels said, so that if an officer doesn’t have his or her camera on, they could return to a substation and still be able to retrieve footage from an incident if needed. Footage captured when the camera isn’t turned on generally remains in the camera for about 10 hours after an officer’s shift.

“Anything that’s captured during the day, generally we can retrieve it,” Daniels said.

Wickersham said the Sheriff’s Office decided to move forward with implementing body cameras to improve transparency.

“The philosophy basically is it’s a tool that’s out there that’s being used by law enforcement agencies across the nation,” Wickersham said. “It’s capturing interactions between officers and the community. It adds evidentiary value to it. When we have a situation, whether it’s an assault on an officer or any type of interaction like an OWI, it’s captured and kept for evidentiary value.”

The board’s action approved a budget amendment for $225,000 approved in the 2016 budget by increasing the capital outlay expense in the general fund budget of the sheriff’s office.

“I’m glad we’re leading the way on this,” said Macomb County Commissioner Leon Drolet, R-Macomb Township.

Wickersham said the delay in equipping deputies with the cameras was due to finalizing IT demands the cameras require. They are wireless, WiFi equipped and will by synced with dash cams in patrol vehicles.

“It was just a matter of my people feeling confident that we had all of the bugs worked out,” Wickersham said. “We had to set up some servers at different substations. It was all on the technology side of it to make sure we had everything properly working.”

After a deputy’s shift, the deputy will be able to upload any camera footage at any of the sheriff department’s substation in just a matter of a few minutes.

The $225,000 cost figure primarily represents the price to purchase 200 body cameras and related technology. The board previously approved roughly $90,000 in funds for IT work related to the cameras which was done in 2016.

“We have nothing to hide. The officers from the Sheriff’s Office go out and do their job every day and it is a difficult job, but this is a tool to protect them and also help protect the community,” Wickersham said. “Not that we have many, but it will reduce any type of false allegations against an officer during a contact.

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