Body cameras likely coming to GRPD in March

Posted at 6:34 PM, Jan 13, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-13 18:34:19-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- The City of Grand Rapids presented a plan hoping to improve the relationship between the Grand Rapids Police Department and the community.

Tuesday's city commission meeting brought forth a series of recommendations. Policing has been a topic of discussion across the country since the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

One of the recommendations is that GRPD officers be required to wear body cameras as early as March of this year.

Police Chief David Rahinsky, who initially opposed the cameras, is now calling the cameras a game changer when it comes to policing in the city.

"They’ll change the nature of police and community relations" Rahinsky said. "They’ll change the nature of how we provide police services to the community. I think once we implement them, other than some modifications and policies, they’ll be here to stay."

The chief said the department has a long-standing reputation for doing "stellar" work. However, there's a bigger goal in mind.

"We want to be a city that other departments want to emulate. We want to be the place that departments look at the Grand Rapids model to see how we've continued to improve, which [is] already a good department, and take it to the next level."

Darel Ross, co-director of LINC, a community group that's been pushing for the cameras from the start, said the list of recommendations, which he helped create, is a step forward for building trust between the community and those who serve and protect it. Ross also serves on the community and police relations committee that was formed over the past couple of months.

"This is not about saying we're anti-police," Ross said.  "This is not about anything GRPD did wrong. This is really just coming and understanding that in policing we need to increase transparency. There is an accountability factor, and we can't ever put the city in the position where, unfortunately, somebody would die and it comes down to objectivity."

Wearing body cameras, according to Ross, not only protects the community but offers security to the officers as well.

"When things are transparent, when they are caught on videos the data shows that not only is the police behavior better, the person being arrested or interrogated is better," Ross said. "The data also suggests that more people--more police--are actually exonerated by the use of body cameras than indicted.

City Manager Greg Sundstrom said the equipment will cost about $1.5 million. The money, he said, could come from various accounts and funds but ultimately it's going to put quite a dent in the city's funds.

"We don't have enough money," Sundstrom said.  "We're not out of the woods yet. The economy is a little bit better than it was, but the city has a lot of work ahead of it in order to become a fully sustainable community. Having said that, I can't imagine too many higher priorities than this.  We need to address this. We need to recognize this as necessary."

For a look at the complete 12-point recommendation click here.