In light of national conversations focused on making law enforcement more transparent, the Sterling Heights Police Department will soon have new in-car video systems and 24 wearable body cameras. This is an upgrade of the current technology used by the department, where currently approximately 60 of the department's police vehicles have cameras installed, and officers wear a body-mounted microphone.
The city's council approved a budget amendment on Tuesday allowing for the purchase.
“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.”
City officials said technological deficiencies and price were barriers to adopting body camera technology previously. In 2016, the police department formed a committee to research the feasibility to implementing body cameras but, at that time, decided to postpone adoption due to data storage concerns, technological problems, and a lack of community acceptance. This week, the police department’s expressed 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.
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 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.”
Sterling Heights was home to a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest
of over 4,000 in June this year, and it's police department is made up of 92% Caucasian officers, despite more than doubling the number of Black officers in the last five years. The city, which currently faces a federal lawsuit involving an officer, has also responded to national concerns for racial injustice with a focus on increasing established diversity work in the police force
and the establishment of an African American Coalition on Equity