Saline Police To Get New Body Cameras And Tasers
Saline is getting new body worn cameras for its police officers. Marlene Radzik told this newspaper when she became police chief last month that her first priority on the job was to convince the City Council to equip her officers with body cameras. Council obliged on April 4 by voting unanimously to invest $210,300.12 over six years in body-worn cameras, and other equipment, from the police body camera producer Axon.
“A significant portion of events that our police officers respond to don’t happen in view of the fixed mounted in-car cameras. Our police officers utilize video for evidentiary purposes and supervisors rely on patrol video for quality assurance audits. Evidentiary purposes include criminal investigations and response to resistance encounters,” Radzik wrote in a memo
to Council. “It is the policy of the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office to withhold a determination of criminal charges involving alleged resisting and obstructing a police officer until they view video footage, which is a critical practice to hold our officers accountable and ensure transparency. Body worn cameras are also instrumental for the investigation of citizen complaints.”
The city will also be replacing its aging in-car camera systems as well as acquiring new tasers to replace the decade-old models that the SPD had been using. These tasers come equipped with small cameras in the tips, allowing prosecutors and defense counsel to have yet another angle on what happened in any case.
Radzik picked Greg Bazick to be her deputy chief partially because of his expertise in these systems. He told the Council that Axon “really is the gold standard” for this technology; so much so that, according to Bazick, the WCPO has trouble handling footage from any body camera supplier other than Axon, because they are so used to just using software from that supplier.
“We do have systems in place that allow us to view videos from any vendor, and we are fully equipped to do so. That said, Axon has proved particularly straightforward for our staff to manage,” Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit said in an emailed statement, when asked if this was true. “We do have systems in place that allow us to view videos from any vendor, and we are fully equipped to do so. That said, Axon has proved particularly straightforward for our staff to manage.”
And these systems are more than just old fashioned cameras. Both officers explained that the when an officer takes their taser out of the holster for example, it activates not just the taser camera, but every single Axon camera within a 30 foot radius via Bluetooth; letting investigators, defense attorneys and prosecutors have multiple angles on what exactly happened at every single incident.
Once activated, the cameras do not turn off mid-way through the events of any incidents unless someone physically turns it off or the battery dies. Pittsfield Township also uses Axon products in its Department of Public Safety. They provided a photo of an example of the device, which is attached to the top of this article.
“I think we’re a little overdue for this technology,” City Councilor Kevin Camero-Sulak said.
The data can either be uploaded directly through the charging equipment in the station or through a cellular function on the device, if the footage needs to be uploaded quickly. The police will have access to the footage through evidence.com, a cloud-based storage system that Axon has produced.
Footage not involved in a crime or call to service will be stored for 30 days. Footage that does involve an altercation will be stored for at least three years. Privacy concerns will be addressed through a redaction feature that comes with the software, Radzik said. The footage is subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
The body worn cameras and new tasers are expected to be phased in by May 22. The department will then install new car-mounted cameras after that.
Headline image: Axon Enterprise, Inc.