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  • By Lisa Brody

Birmingham police approved for body cameras

Birmingham City Commissioners unanimously approved a request from the chief of police to purchase 40 body cameras and to provide bias awareness and sensitivity training for the police department and other city employees, at their meeting on Monday, June 22. Police Chief Mark Clemence explained he and the department have been researching and studying the issue of body worn cameras since 2016. “There were privacy concerns, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, department policies and implementation issues that have been matters of debate concerning body worn cameras. In July of 2017, the state of Michigan enacted the Law Enforcement Body-Worn Camera Privacy Act that took effect in January of 2018, known as the Crime Victim's Act. As far as the pros, there are many, including transparency in today's day. They also provide a level of protection for the officer.” He said the police department has also been in communication with several Oakland County police departments including Ferndale, Royal Oak and Northville that have all initiated the use of body worn cameras. “These departments report positive experiences with their body worn camera programs and have provided sample policies and procedures.” Clemence explained the proposed system, from WatchGuard Video, will be used with the in-car cameras purchased in 2019. “When we upgraded, we did so knowing we may do this,” he said. “We have storage space, so we're just paying for cameras. I think this is a great idea. As chief, I'm very comfortable with this. I think it's a great idea.” The city has had in-car cameras since the early 1990s, he said. He noted “the officers of the Birmingham Police Department are highly educated, highly trained, professional police officers. All officers take pride in serving this community and the positive reputation the department has earned. The use of body worn cameras will continue to promote accountability and transparency for all officers about the work they perform, further leading to enhanced community relations and public trust. Additional benefits include providing potential evidence in criminal prosecutions, assessing complaints about alleged officer misconduct and allowing for the analysis of officer performance to enhance training and safety.” The expenditure of $60,463 was approved, 7-0. In addition, he explained that every September they conduct annual training. “This training consists of yearly mandatory requirements such as firearms, use of force and Taser. In addition to these, the department adds additional training in a variety of areas, which in the past have included such topics as cultural diversity, respectful communications and autism awareness to name a few,” he said. Clemence said that this year they have requested and received “a proposal for bias awareness and sensitivity training that will cover how our biases impact decision, perceptions and interactions” from Jocelyn Giangrande, president and founder of SASHE, LLC. Clemence said the proposal is to facilitate four workshops of, “If You’re Human, You’re Biased.” Two of the sessions will be specifically geared towards police officers and be provided to the police department while the other two sessions will be more generalized for other city employees. The cost for all four three-hour sessions is $14,700, inclusive of materials. “Considering the timing of it, I see nothing but benefit,” Clemence said. Commissioners unanimously approved the request.

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