The City of Grand Rapids approved a plan yesterday to equip Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) officers with body cameras.
According to news reports, the City will spend at least $1.5 million dollars on the program. It will begin with the development of a policy for the cameras’ use in early March, followed by testing phase where the GRPD will test multiple cameras from different manufacturers. The full implementation is scheduled to begin in December of 2015.
These cameras will add a new layer of surveillance in Grand Rapids, joining the stationary cameras documented on this site and the license plate scanners used by the police.
According to WOOD TV 8, Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) Chief David Rahinsky is against police body cameras. In an article that reveals somewhat mixed feelings on the matter, WOOD TV 8 reported:
The chief says he recognizes the advantages of body cameras, but he has concerns about the public’s privacy and community relations.
“I don’t want it to have a dampening effect on relationships that we’ve worked hard to earn,” he said. “I have concerns more that people who have issues in their neighborhood and may want to share those concerns would be reluctant to do so.”
He thinks if people know they are being recorded, they won’t be willing share information needed to solve a case.
He’s also worried about recording children, as well as sexual assault and domestic violence victims.
“I’m not comfortable with officers having the ability to activate those cameras in private residences,” he said.
The chief didn’t rule out getting body cams sometime further down the road, but he said he needs more information about when they’ll be activated, how long the video will be stored and who will be able to view the footage before he reconsiders.
A recent article on Mlive.com has more details about the expanded video surveillance program in downtown Grand Rapids. Some important details from the article:
- “…there are roughly 100 exterior video cameras right now that are or could be accessed under the program, many of them concentrated around government and critical infrastructure buildings.”
- Non-disclosure agreements exist to prevent public knowledge of the businesses cooperating in the program
- Businesses who have provided police access to their cameras include Spectrum Health and Amway Hotel Corporation.
Overall, the program grants city and county law enforcement “real-time” access to surveillance cameras at private businesses.
According to various news reports, local and state officials are getting increased access to video surveillance cameras at businesses in downtown Grand Rapids. WOODTV reports that a public-private partnership has been created to allow the city, county, and state access to the cameras via a closed-circuit network. The plan was reportedly in the works for three years but was implemented due to recent shootings in downtown.
The Grand Rapids Police Department will have the capability to view the cameras in real-time.
Additionally, the city is pursuing grants from the Department of Homeland Security to expand the system and purchase additional exquipment.