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Detroit Legal Blog

Detroit Police Get Body Camera

Feb 13, 2017, by Maurice Davis in Criminal Defense, Legal Blog, Police Brutality

In May 2016 the Detroit City Council approved a $5.2 million plan to equip 1,500 Detroit police officers with body cameras and add 450 cameras in police cars. The plan calls for the integration of all the new equipment and has been called one of the nation’s largest sets of synchronized on-person and in-car cameras. The presence of body cameras on so many Detroit law enforcement officers means that there will be increased accountability and transparency for the police, and could also provide critical evidence for individuals who feel they have been wrongfully accused of a crime. However, body cameras are never a perfect solution and the costs of managing all of the new information will be immense.

Body Cameras are Being Rolled Out This Year

Following approval of the body camera program by the Detroit City Council the city began a 60-day trial last summer with a total of 50 cameras in two city precincts. The test period ended in December 2016 and the Detroit Police Department began a full rollout of the cameras in January. The plan is to outfit a new precinct with cameras each month during 2017 with the goal of having all 12 of the Detroit precincts equipped with body cameras and integrated in-car cameras by the end of 2017.

The Benefits of Body Cameras

Once a precinct is equipped with the integrated body cameras and in-car cameras, the cameras will begin recording when a police car’s lights and siren are turned on, when the back doors of the car open, when the vehicle suddenly accelerates or when it crashes. Officers will also be required to have the cameras on when interacting with citizens, but not during investigations of sexual assault or domestic violence.

The use of the body cameras benefits both the police officers and the citizens, as there will be a video record of their interactions which will provide an impartial third viewpoint if there is a dispute as to what happened during the encounter. Additionally, body camera footage could provide extremely useful evidence in the prosecution of crimes where an officer was present by either helping prove or disprove the charges against the criminal defendant.

Limitations of Body Cameras

As body cameras are rolled out in Detroit this year it is important to realize that their use is not a perfect solution. Technical failures such as the camera losing power, failing to turn on automatically or becoming detached from the officer are always a possibility. Even when functioning properly, a body camera is only able to capture a view of events happening directly in front of a police officer. Events that happen behind or to the side of a recording officer will not be clearly captured, and the body camera could instead provide a misleading impression of events that happen on the officer’s periphery.

The Continuing Costs of Body Cameras

The millions of dollars spent by the City of Detroit in purchasing and equipping the body cameras on police officers is only the beginning of the costs for using those body cameras. All of the video recorded by police officers will still need to be reviewed, organized, and stored. A trial of body cameras with only 100 police officers in Boston generated nearly 1,500 hours of video amounting to 1.6 terabytes of data in just three months. The additional cost in managing body camera videos for the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office is estimated to be $3.7 million for the 2017/18 fiscal year, and that estimate does not include the costs for the massive amount of data storage that will be required.

How a Detroit Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help

There are costs and limitations to Detroit’s use of body cameras, but for a criminal defendant the availability of additional impartial evidence taken at the crime scene is extremely valuable. An experienced Detroit criminal defense lawyer will know how to make the most out of all the body camera evidence in your case.

Detroit criminal defense attorney Maurice Davis has worked both as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney, so he will be able to understand how body camera footage can aid in your defense and what video evidence might be damaging. Contact Davis Law Group today at (313) 818-3238 or online for a confidential consultation.