GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Questions continue to swirl over the lack of a body camera in the deadly state police shooting of an unarmed Hamilton man this week.
On Monday, one MSP trooper was dispatched to a breaking and entering call off Oak Drive near 132nd Avenue. Police encountered who they initially described as a male suspect, later identified as 31-year-old Virgil Lee Taylor.
“It just doesn’t add up. We can’t wrap our heads around it, and our hearts are breaking. We just don’t know," said Taylor's cousin Lanora Kendall speaking to FOX17 on Wednesday. "I feel like there must have been some other kind of altercation. Virgil Lee had to be in fear of being harmed or he wouldn’t even of touched the officer."
Only a fraction of MSP troopers are assigned body-worn cameras. Per their policy, only MSP motor carrier officers, state properties security officers, and in the last few months, Motor Unit officers are equipped with body cameras.
One department with a robust body and vehicle camera program is Grand Rapids Police. They acquired cameras for every sworn member of the department over the last five years since the cameras launched in 2016.
“From the chief, all the way down to the newest recruit,” said GRPD spokesman Sgt. Dan Adams. “It’s actually done a lot to hold ourselves accountable, to be transparent, to be more open, and to retain really information as we build criminal cases.”
GRPD is certified by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Standards, or CALEA for short. CALEA standards require departments have all officers outfitted with body cameras. Many GRPD cruisers also have cameras. But according to Sgt. Adams, less than 5% of the nation’s departments are CALEA accredited, about a dozen in Michigan.
Sgt. Adams noted though, that body cameras – while he believes they’ve increased trust and safety for officers and civilians – aren’t a substitution for community-based police work.
“Not to look at it as a cure all and a silver bullet kind of thing,” he said. “The necessity to still build trust with the community and to have a good relationship with the community is still vital and the camera isn’t automatically going to do that for you.”