St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department Deploys Body Cameras

The St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department recently deployed body cameras to all of its deputies, a move according to Sheriff Mat King that will benefit the public, the department and the justice system.

King said body cameras allow the public and law enforcement to see what a deputy is experiencing from the deputy’s perspective, as the camera is attached to his chest.

“We thought it would be smart to have our assistants, and anyone in uniform wearing these things when interacting with the public so that if there is an incident that needs to be investigated, we can and the public can see the member’s point of view, “he said.

The deployment of body cameras also includes the replacement of all on-board cameras, a technology that the sheriff’s department has had for many years.

In a note to the St. Clair County Board of Commissioners, St. Clair County Finance Director Dena Alderdyce said the old onboard cameras are around 10 years old and need to be replaced.

King said the on-board cameras and body cameras provided are synchronized so that every complaint is filed in one place, bringing all the information together. Data can be stored for a period of time or indefinitely if images are needed for an investigation.

Axon, the company the county hired to provide the service, created a cloud-based storage system for the data, but King said they are still working on the technology to improve the process for writing FOIA requests. Writing can be a tedious task, he said.

St. Clair County Deputy Sheriff Carl Wilczak models a new body camera on Wednesday, September 22, 2021 at the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department.  The department recently deployed body cameras to all of its deputies.

The cameras were deployed about six weeks ago to a select group of supervisors and assistants, who then trained the rest of the department in the technology. King said on Wednesday that most deputies in the department now have body cameras, while about 75% of vehicles in the department have received the updated technology.

King said the cameras would be useful in holding employees accountable when they make mistakes and / or receive complaints from citizens, as police and citizens will be able to see what happened. The images can also be used as part of training to examine what went wrong or went well in certain situations.

On the other hand, cameras will also be useful in protecting employees against unfounded citizen complaints. For example, the ministry received a complaint from a citizen regarding the conduct of a traffic control assistant about three weeks ago. A review of the body camera images revealed the complaint to be completely without merit, King said.

The images will also be useful as evidence to be presented in court, he said.

“There are so many cool tools that can be used to really paint a picture to the public, a jury, a complainant, or a victim or a lawyer or anyone as to what really happened.” , King said.

King said the department created a policy requiring officers to turn on their body cameras when interacting with the public on a police matter or when interacting with suspects on the road.

Axon provided a project cost of $ 490,832 over five years for one-time hardware, software and data storage costs, as well as annual license renewal costs. The county’s IT department also said there would be an additional estimated $ 52,000 for servers, access points and digital storage, bringing the total cost of the project to $ 542,832 over five years.

In addition to new body cameras for its deputies, the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department is also improving the cameras on its patrol vehicles.

The largest source of funding will come from the Sheriff’s Public Improvement Fund at $ 332,054, another $ 111,440 will come from the Sheriff’s General Fund, a potential of $ 60,676 will come from grants and $ 24,464 will come from the Sheriff’s Tax. drug working group.

The county has ordered 91 body cameras and 30 action cameras, King said.

Alderdyce said the county is currently in the process of applying for a risk management grant through the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Association for $ 24,000 to cover half the costs of data storage. If the grant is approved, the money will go back to the public improvement fund.

King said the department had considered the technology in the past, but had yet to adopt it due to concerns about the cost and novelty of the technology, which in early versions posed data storage challenges. .

King said the technology had improved enough that the department found it profitable and beneficial to acquire the technology. Body cameras could even help save money on attorney and complaints court fees, he said.

“We saw that it was about time. The technology had been improved so that it could be used in a positive way,” King said. “I think we’re at the point where the public is demanding it and it’s also something that we plan to use to save money on lawsuits. I don’t see a downside.”

Contact Laura Fitzgerald at (810) 941-7072 or lfitzgeral@gannett.com.


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