City officials unanimously vote to fund GRPD body camera roll-out

Posted at 5:16 PM, Mar 10, 2015

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Committee of the Whole voted unanimously to fund a portion of the Grand Rapids Police Department’s body camera system on Tuesday.

City officials will spend $674,124 from the “Transformation Fund,” over the next two years. Then, GRPD’s operating budget will cover the body camera system’s expenses. This investment will include the purchase of 200 body cameras, licenses, software, and officer training.

"Our request for the $674,000 is a turnkey solution: it provides the cameras, the software, CAD integration, but most importantly is it provides for storage on,” said GRPD Chief David Rahinsky.

Chief Rahinsky presented the city’s administrative policy for body cameras, which is not set in stone. The policy requires all uniformed officers to wear a body camera and turn them on at the start of their shift, and then record during any call for service.

“The purpose here for the Chief was to try to find a balance to protect citizens` privacy, to protect police officers, and yet to provide as much transparency as we possibly could,” said Grand Rapids City Manager Greg Sundstrom.

Meantime, Chief Rahinsky said there is not an expectation of privacy when you are speaking with a uniformed officer; he added officers do not have to announce when they are recording. However, during sensitive moments, for instance during an interview with a sexually abused victim, officers will be trained to turn their cameras off.

“Our training will really highlight instances where the individual might not think to ask that the camera be deactivated, but the officer be sensitive enough to recognize this is not a recordable moment,” explained Chief Rahinsky.

Chief Rahinsky said he tried a camera himself, and while this is a big change, he has embraced moving forward with policy that mirrors their in-car video policies.

“I`m much more comfortable,” said Chief Rahinksy. “Initially, I think the rush to embrace the technology didn`t allow for a lot of these unanticipated issues and consequences. Now that we`ve had a thorough discussion, and had an opportunity to draft a policy that addresses a lot of those issues, I feel much better.”

A key part of this program will be data storage: they will use a secure Amazon-based cloud storage. The Chief said the department is prepared to store body cameras’ video as evidence for up to 50 years if needed, for example, in future capital cases.

All officers are expected to be trained and wearing body cameras by mid-summer into the fall.