Body Cams Coming to Grand Rapids Police Department:
That is right, Body Cams will soon be worn by Grand Rapids Police! I was fortunate to attend a GRPD Body Cam training session specifically designed to introduce and educate attorneys on the new camera system that will be utilized by every GRPD officer in the near future. According to GRPD Captain Peter McWatters, GRPD has purchased approximately 290 Axon Body Cam 2 models that will be issued to each officer. Link provided to the manufacture’s website: http://www.axon.io/products/body2 This camera system will be worn by GRPD officers in the middle of the upper chest and record both visual and audio. Captain McWatters indicated that GRPD officers will record situations involving most citizen contacts and events when police are effectuating traffic stops, arrests, search warrant and possibly interviews. There will be exceptions such as in confidential informant situation, interviewing alleged rape victims and GRPD officers assigned to Federal task forces. McWatters indicated that the storage of these video will be maintain by Axon on their cloud based server and system known as “Evidence.com.” GRPD will not pay for storage per their contact and storage will be unlimited.
All this stated, this new technology will enable not only law enforcement, prosecutors and defense attorneys but the general public to observe what the individual officers have seen and heard during an event. Now, Captain McWatters cautions that these cameras are only 2 dimensional and only pick up what is directly in front of the officers. GRPD’s testing of these cameras have provided insight into their limitations when deployed into the field and in actual situations. We observed several demonstrative videos that show situations where officers held their service pistol during a high risk traffic stop and that position blocked the visual capability of the camera but still permitted the camera to record audio. So, the recording still have value just not visual. Captain McWatters indicated that during his tenure in Internal Affairs, audio records would sometimes make or break a case he was investigating. So, whether recording visual or audio, these cameras have tremendous value to interested parties.
The total impact of Body Cams will not be realized immediately. There are issues as to how we as criminal defense attorneys will gain access to these records. GRPD is anticipating that once deployed into the force, that they will be inundated with demands either from the media via the Freedom Of Information Act or by attorney and courts. GRPD is working to provide a working system to provide access to this video’s once requested. WMDT will continue to monitor and update as to the progress Body Cams by GRPD. If you have any questions about this new technology you can contact attorney Jerry Lykins at 616-818-7272.