In light of national conversations focused to make law enforcement more transparent, Sterling Heights City Council approved budget amendment allowing the purchase of new in-car video systems and 24 wearable body cameras at the regular meeting on Sept. 15.
“About half of police departments nationwide are using body cameras, and we’re looking forward to joining them,” said Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor. “We are proud of our police department’s professional reputation and the trust they have built with our residents and business owners. We believe the addition of body cameras will help maintain and build on that community trust.”
For years, technological deficiencies and price were barriers to adopting body camera technology. In 2016, Sterling Heights Police Department formed a committee to research the feasibility to implementing body cameras. At that point, the committee decided to postpone adoption due to data storage concerns, technological problems and community acceptance. Today, it is the police department’s opinion that these issues have all been addressed, and it is time to move forward with a body camera program.
“Ten cars will receive completely new in-car camera systems with body cameras, nine cars will be upgraded to add body cameras and five additional body cameras will be purchased for two-man cars and spares in case of failure,” said Sterling Heights Police Chief Dale Dwojakowski. “About 60 police vehicles already have cameras installed, and officers currently wear a body-mounted microphone. These new in-car systems are upgraded to add body-worn cameras instead of microphones.”
The first phase of the body camera program will outfit 19 vehicles by the end of 2020 and includes an upgrade to the City’s computer servers that will allow for the handling of the additional video load. The second phase will involve the application of a federal Body Worn Camera Grant in the spring of 2021 as well as completion of the remaining 40 vehicles by the end of 2021.
“Cameras have been installed in Sterling Heights police cars since the early 1990s,” said Chief Dwojakowski. “We’ve moved from VCR tape to DVD to hard drives, and now technology is reliable enough to add body cameras. This is just one more way we can reinforce excellent communication and transparency for our officers and the public we serve.”