Madison Heights Approves Body Cameras for Police
Madison Heights, MI – Police in Madison Heights will soon be wearing body cameras when interacting with the public thanks to a vote by City Council Monday evening.
“In each budget cycle for the past 5 years we’ve discussed body cams, and unfortunately every year the technological capabilities and cost weren’t at a point where we could move forward. Thankfully our staff stayed on top of this, and this year we were able to make this critical purchase,” said Councilperson Mark Bliss following the meeting.
“I’m proud that we could finally make this investment. It improves transparency, as well as be a valuable training tool for our officers who will now be able to replay interactions. Overall this is a perfect example of how embracing modern technology can make a positive impact for our staff and our residents.”
Councilperson Kymmburleigh Clark backed the motion before the unanimous yes vote, saying that what she liked about the five year contract was that: “As a subscription service, where the technology is updated and upgraded over the course of five years … we’ll always have the most up to date technology that this company offers so long as we have these cameras.”
Madison Heights PD will be getting 50 body-worn cameras for their officers, 55 in-car cameras to replace their aging system, as well as recharging points, a cloud-based data management and storage system from Axon Enterprise – a law enforcement equipment supplier.
The cost of $342,234.40 is spread out over five years. Over the five year agreement the body cameras will be replaced twice, and the in-car cameras will be replaced once.
“The first installment of it will be the in-car cameras being replaced with their latest technology. We’ve already upgraded in the process to the top body cameras that they have at this time,” Haines said. “And we’ll get upgraded again during the course of the five year plan. And then at the end of the five year plan they will actually update the body cameras a third time, just before we leave the program. If we continue at that point with Axon, then we would get into another subscription program at that point.”
The data will be transmitted through an existing cellular service and stored through software provided by Axon. The cloud-held data can then be used for evidence in lawsuits, in prosecuting criminal suspects and in the event that anyone files a Freedom of Information Act request with the city.
FOIA requests can be accommodated through a redaction function within Axios’ software, according to Haines, making any request for footage more efficient.
This system would provide video storage memory in the cloud as it is collected by the officer wearing it, where the police and city will be able to access data when needed. Haines said that the administration, and command officers, will be able to look at the footage, but not modify it.
Current camera footage is held for a maximum of two years in a server in the basement of the police department. The cloud will allow the department to keep footage with no time limit, on government-owned servers.
Axon would be responsible for the security of the data, according to Haines. Haines also added under questioning that there would be a three layer safety mechanism, meaning that if one copy of any particular file is corrupted, there will be two backups elsewhere in the cloud.
The city is actively looking for grants to lessen the overall cost of the system through the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Association, a “self-insurance pool” for managing liabilities for local governments.
Chief Haines said in a letter to the City Manager that “We have also consulted with the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Association and we have the ability to receive a total of $77,500 in reimbursement through the RAP Grants from MMRA. MMRA will decide how much of this total to reimburse the City each year based on the five year breakdown in costs. If we receive the total reimbursement it would reduce the overall cost of the program to $264.734.40.”
Taking their time to find the right technology and price point, means the department is able to learn from the experiences of other departments and their programs, and to get the latest features.
For example, the chief was impressed that in the event of gunfire or other noises the cameras would turn recording on and capture at least the thirty seconds of footage leading up to it.
“Technology wise the cameras are excellent. Our technology committee ITAC reviewed the cameras and we’re impressed. They can automatically turn on in specific situations, upload videos in real time, and closely mimic what a human eye can see – making the recordings similar to how our officers actually experienced the events,” Bliss said.
The department already has it in policy that the cameras should be on when officers are interacting with citizens, according to Chief Haines.
As of Nov. 2019, Ferndale, Lake Orion, Hazel Park, and Northville had instituted police body camera use.