HP Police Body Cam Petition Could End up in Court Battle

ScottWrightadTOPHP Police Body Cam PetitionNewWay_Jazz_Tuesdays Could End up in Court Battle

(Crystal A. Proxmire, May 25, 2016)

Hazel Park, MI – Oak Park resident Andrew Cissell said he is ready to take The City of Hazel Park to court if they refuse to put an initiative on the ballot to require police officers to wear body cameras on the job.   On Tuesday Cissell turned in 185 signatures (he needed 147), though City Manager Ed Klobucher said the measure will not go on the ballot.

BubbleTea Ad“Good intention doesn’t always mean good policy,” Klobucher said as he went through a list of reasons why he and Police Chief Martin Barner are advising City Council to reject the petition.

Reasons included that there is no funding source for the requirement, that this is an administrative issue and not a legislative issue, that there are potential conflicts with state and federal law, that it conflicts with mutual aid agreements and that the wording is unclear.

“There are so many problems with this I could go on about this for hours,” Klobucher said.  He explained that the city has been researching body cameras.  They have tested various products to look at image quality, how cumbersome they are, if they interfered with vision or other aspects of the officer’s job, and what the cost might be.

Other issues that need to be worked out are how to protect the privacy of people who appear lisa schmidt lawon camera, and of the officer themselves.  “If an officer has it on all day, what about when they go to the bathroom, or if they take a break to have lunch with their kid?” The Chief said.  “As more departments are looking into this, a best practice is going to come of it.

Klobucher said that groups like Michigan Association of Municipal Attorneys and the Chief of Police Association are working to develop best practices, and that he thinks Hazel Park is better off waiting to see what happens in the legislature, or if they may be some more collaborative system put in place.

“The City of Hazel Park could be locked into the purchase of incompatible technology.  We’ve had this happen with voting machines, with phone systems, with radio systems.  It’s ridiculous to force Hazel Park to buy a system,” Klobucher said.

MBREW draft oneHe said estimates are hard because the technology is quickly changing for the cameras and the storage, and there are unknown expenses such the amount of time spend administering the system, but that it could be “$100,000, or $200,000.”

“The cost of the technology keeps going down, but you’re also looking at the cost of data storage, the hours involved in managing it, repair and replacement cameras,” said Chief Barner.

“We have to think about compatibility with different systems.  If you’ve got 63 municipalities and each one has a different system what does that mean for the Prosecutor?  We have that problem now with all the different stores and security cams.  We rely on the stores and their tech people to get us the files in a format we can use,” Chief Barner said.

“We’re a small city and there’s a lot of financial consideration,” Klobucher said.  “We are in favor of this, but why should Hazel Park be the Guinea pigs?”HowesLocation

The use of body cameras is gaining support by the police and the public, with police appreciating the extra evidence, and those concerned with police accountability valuing the transparency and the potential for deterring misconduct.  The ACLU looks at the issue from both sides.  Their website states:

“Cameras have the potential to be a win-win, helping protect the public against police misconduct, and at the same time helping protect police against false accusations of abuse…At the same time, body cameras have more of a potential to invade privacy than those deployments. Police officers enter people’s homes and encounter bystanders, suspects, and victims in a wide variety of sometimes stressful and extreme situations.”

Cissell’s concern is for the citizens interacting with the police.  “It increases public safety, and garden16_mindy_domkeit deescalates situations. Use of force is drastically decreased.  Overall safety for both parties, citizens and police officers, is increased.”

Cissell is a marijuana legalization activist with political aspirations.  He and other volunteers successfully put ordinance or charter changes on the ballot in Berkley, Ferndale, Huntington Woods, Oak Park and Pleasant Ridge – cities in the 27th State Representative District.  Cissell ran unsuccessfully for State Rep. in 2014 and hopes to run again.  He is currently awaiting trail in Sixth Circuit Court on four counts of delivery and manufacture of marijuana from 2013 when police say he sold marijuana to an undercover officer.  Cissell was also convicted of giving a false address on petitions in Ferndale in connection with the marijuana ballot proposal there.  His trial is scheduled to begin June 6.

Cissell said he feels like petitioning and going through processes in the courts are his way of creating changes that he wants to see in the world.  “It’s sort of my niche,” he said.

When asked why he picked Hazel Park he said “I lost that race [for State Rep] but I still want Chazzano03to impact my community the best way I can.  Hazel Park is just as much my home as Oak Park and Ferndale.”

He added that Ferndale is next on his list, with Oak Park to possibly follow.

Detroit City Council recently approved a $5.2 million contract to provide 1,500 body cameras and 450 in-car cams. The move was championed by the police officers’ union as a way to reduce false allegations against officers, according to The Detroit News.

Departments across the country have been implementing programs.

The Hazel Park City Council is expected to vote on the petitions at their June 14 City Council meeting.


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