ESCANABA, Mich. (WZMQ) – For the first time in its history, the Escanaba Department of Public Safety will soon equip its offers with body cams.
“Escanaba Public Safety has been pursuing purchasing body cameras for the last several years,” said Public Safety Captain Darren Smith. “The only issue is the budget. When the cameras first came out, they could be priced up to $200,000. Not only the camera cost, but the cloud, the maintenance fees.”
Thanks to a $60,000 Bureau of Justice Assistance grant and a matching contribution from the City of Escanaba, the department is finally getting 30 body-worn cameras.
“They’ll be placed through the front of the uniform or through a pocket,” Smith said, demonstrating on his uniform.
Smith says the recordings can be used as evidence in criminal prosecutions, as training materials, and as a way to make law enforcement more transparent.
“If we have citizen complaints about officers, we can use the video as well to see if a complaint’s sustained, not sustained, what can be improved on, to make sure that we’re doing everything correctly,” he said.
According to Smith, the public has largely been supportive of the idea of officers wearing body cams. However, he expects some citizens to have concerns.
“Somebody may not come forth with information being on camera,” said Smith. “They may act violently or negatively, just for the reason that they are on camera.”
Smith says there are already policies in place, which have been approved by the FBI, to prevent any privacy violations.
“Our recordings aren’t just going to be released to anybody,” he said. “There is a FOIA process, redactions occur, and only the information that we absolutely have to release will be released. We make sure that people’s private lives stay private.”
Smith believes the body cams will be a beneficial upgrade to the Department of Public Safety and to the citizens of Escanaba.
“As an administration point, these are a great tool for us,” he said. “It’s going to catch all the interactions, emotions, so all that comes into play in evidence. I think overall, for the community and the department, it’s a win-win.”
Escanaba Public Safety will receive the cameras in about a month. Officers will be trained on proper usage before wearing them on duty.