BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — The Battle Creek City Commission unanimously approved a nearly $740,000 police body camera contract on Tuesday.
The five-year deal would equip 65 patrol officers and their sergeants with the technology and replace 40 in-car cameras.
The cameras would be provided by Utility Associates Inc., a company based in Georgia.
“Body cameras are about officer safety just as much as they are about community engagement,” said Chief of Police Jim Blocker.
According to the city, the cameras would cost about $147,500 per year, with the first two years paid for by the city’s risk fund. The city says it has set aside risk funds over the last two years in anticipation of the purchase. The other dollars will come from the department’s technology budget and $6,000 from the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority.
Blocker says the department chose Utility Associates Inc. over six other companies not only because of the cost, but because of its smarts sensors, which would trigger the cameras to roll if, for example, an officer removes his or her gun from its holster.
“There’s going to be certain triggers that we’re going to look through and work with the company on how to best design, how to create automation and limit risk to the officer, and ensuring that we can capture that critical moment,” said Blocker.
The cameras also provide GPS officer location and instantly uploads the video recorded to a secure, cloud-based system.
Blocker believes all of those listed features would be useful in a situation like an officer-involved shooting, which happened earlier Tuesday.
“It took me and IT staff about four hours to pull administratively some of the footage that we had from our old systems,” said Blocker. “That’s cumbersome to work through.”
Blocker adds this is just the next step in building trust with the community.
“These things turn chaotic and uncertain and violent in seconds and we want to be able to sort of decipher what happened in those moments,” said Blocker. “When we do well, we talk about it. When we need to develop and improve, we talk about it. That won’t change.”
Blocker expects the department to be fully fitted with the cameras within the next 60 to 90 days.