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Detroit Police set to become national leader in implementation of body worn cameras

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Detroit Police set to become national leader in implementation of body worn cameras 

  • City Council votes to approve $5.2M contract with WatchGuard
  • Contract calls for deployment of 1,500 body worn cameras and 450 in-vehicle units
  • Implementation to begin next month, be complete in fall 2017

Starting next month, the Detroit Police Department will begin the implementation of police body cameras and new in-car video across the entire department, thanks to city council approval today of a $5.2 million contract with WatchGuard, an industry leader in the technology.  Council’s approval today caps a more-than yearlong due diligence process led by Chief James Craig and Mayor Mike Duggan as part of their efforts to make DPD more transparent.

WatchGuard was the preferred vendor based on several criteria:

  • Cost
  • Experience in deployment of the technology
  • Video file access and file management capabilities
  • Timeline for full integration between body-worn and in-vehicle cameras

The next leading proposal was from Taser, at a cost of $8.9 million.  Unlike WatchGuard, Taser is new to producing in-vehicle cameras and uses a more expensive cloud-based video storage system.

Chief Craig said that having all patrol and investigative officers wearing body cameras will further strengthen the bond DPD has developed with the community.

“The most important thing we can have as a police department is the trust of the citizens we serve,” said Chief James Craig.  “This new system will allow us to document every encounter our officers have with a member of the public.  This was a process that was initiated and led by officers themselves and they are in full support of this new platform.”

Last year, DPD was selected by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to be an example of a major city police department that implemented a BWC program through a competitive grant process; which will ultimately help other agencies around the country to develop their own BWC programs. To that end, DPD received a $1,000,000 grant to fund this initiative.  The remainder of the funding for the project is coming from the City of Detroit.

The WatchGuard contract calls for the deployment of 1,500 body-worn cameras to cover all patrol and investigative officers in the Department, as well as 450 in-vehicle cameras.  Next month, DPD will deploy the first 50 body cameras and 20 vehicle cameras in the 4th and 7th precincts.  This 60-day assessment of the new system will be to assess its functionality in real-world conditions and be done at no cost to the city.  Full deployment will begin in August and is expected to be completed within 14 months.  

“When we are finished with this project, the City of Detroit will have one of the most transparent police departments in the country,” Mayor Duggan said. “The community should be very proud of what Chief Craig, his officers and City Council have accomplished today.”

The new system will provide three different points of view (officer’s point of view; front of patrol vehicle; back seat).   The system will have multiple ways recording can be activated. Once fully integrated, both the body-worn and in-vehicle cameras will activate simultaneously: 

  • accelerometers (speed)
  • Impact
  • emergency lights activation
  • opening of the rear doors
  • body-worn camera
  • manually

Here’s how the new system will work: Once an officer activates his or her lights or siren on their vehicle, both the dash cam and body camera systems for both partners would immediately begin recording.  Similarly, once an officer activates his or her body camera system, the dash cam system in their vehicle and their partner’s body camera unit will begin recording to capture all views possible.   That video will be stored and retrievable as needed.

The Chief and the Mayor are basing their decision to proceed on recommendation made by a selection committee, made up of DPD leadership, police officers, the city’s Chief Information Officer, Beth Niblock, and the city’s Office of Contracting and Procurement, which has been studying the issue for the past several months.

Officer-led process

In early 2015, 20 members of the 11th Precinct volunteered to participate in the pilot program that consisted of utilizing camera systems from three vendors for 30 days in succession for a total of 90 days. The vendor candidates were Data 911, Taser and Innovative Solutions.  While a range of issues were considered during the trial, the three overriding factors officers identified as being critical to selecting the vendor will be:

  • Comfort/ease of use
  • Battery Life (full or partial shift)
  • Integration with dashboard camera systems

WatchGuard’s Other Agency Deployments

  • Houston Police Department
  • Oakland County Sheriff's Department
  • California Highway Patrol
  • Pennsylvania State Police
  • Texas State Highway Patrol
  • New York State Highway Patrol
  • Minnesota Highway Patrol
  • River Rouge Police Department
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