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Kalamazoo police chief: Body cameras just an “evolution of the profession”

User: West Midlands Police
Wikimedia Commons

Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley says he’d like all of his officers to wear body cameras by 2016.

Hadley has some concerns about citizens’ privacy and the costs, but he thinks the cameras will be worth it.

“It’s just part of the evolution of the profession and the technology that goes along with that evolution and we’re going to have to have to factor it in as we budget prospectively,” Hadley said.

Hadley says a pilot program he launched in the city is going well so far. He says they’re testing three different camera models for durability and ease of use. They’ll also factor in picture quality, storage, and cost.

Other cities in Michigan, including Ypsilanti, Lansing, Ann Arbor, and Grand Rapids are also working on their own approaches.

Hadley guesses it’ll cost Kalamazoo roughly a million dollars over the first five years to set up and maintain a system for all officers to wear body cameras. For perspective, the annual Kalamazoo Public Safety department’s budget is $3.5 million, Hadley said.

“That’s a significant amount of money in the financial situation that most municipal governments in Michigan are in,” he said.

Still, Hadley believes body cams are just like laptops in cruisers and dash cameras; soon, it’ll be the industry standard.

Kalamazoo still needs to work on a city policy for when and where the body cameras will be used.

“You can’t just slap a camera on an officer and say ‘OK, yeah, we’re good.’ It’s just not that simple and nor should it be,” Hadley said.

He says people’s privacy is a concern, because the video footage could be available if requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

Hadley says the city will look for input from a number of interests as they draft a policy.

“That way we can have a policy that meets our needs, meets the community’s needs and is acceptable by all. So there’s no surprises, there’s no things that we didn’t consider. And that’s just going to take some time,” he said.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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