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Pilot Program Will Outfit Some Detroit Cops With Body Cams

DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - It's a new reality for cops. Some Detroit police officers will soon be wearing body cameras.

As WWJ City Beat Reporter Vickie Thomas reports, it's part of a 90-day pilot program for the department say Detroit Police Chief James Craig.

As part of the program twenty 11th Precinct officers will wear body cams.

"What makes Detroit so unique - our police officers initiated and volunteered to do this," said Craig. "I am confident we will have full implementation of - we will be one of the first major cities in America to have full implementation," said Chief Craig.

"What this is going to do," said Mayor Mike Duggan,"is give us objective evidence of what occurred. And whether the officer made a mistake or didn't, what the citizen did or didn't do, we're going to know. We have not had incidents here, as have been in other parts of the country, but nobody here is under any illusion - an incident can happen anywhere."

"Police officers in Detroit have a very hard and dangerous job - they are making split-second decisions - in very difficult circumstances. When you see the problems and I dealt with this when I was the prosecutor - the problems that become community wide normally aren't individual incidents but it's the story that develops surrounding that incident," said Duggan.

President Barack Obama had asked Congress last year for funding to buy 50,000 body cameras for police to wear and record their interactions with the public. The request followed last summer's shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown by an officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

"I am really hopeful that we find a way to make this work," Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said. "We have not had incidents here as in other parts of the country, but nobody here is under any illusion. An incident can happen anywhere.
"What we are committed to do is build as strong a relationship as possible to minimize those chances."

Detroit police plan to buy 415 cameras through a bidding process if department-wide use is approved. Cost estimates weren't released, but the money would come from the city's bankruptcy restructuring plan, said Duggan, who added that storing video would cost more than the cameras.

In Michigan, the Grand Rapids' City Commission approved funding Tuesday for 200 body cameras, and systems also have been tested in Kalamazoo.

More widely, police in Ferguson received body cameras after officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Brown. Cleveland began equipping front-line officers with high-resolution body cameras amid a federal investigation of its police department that was triggered by a high-speed pursuit and the fatal shooting of two unarmed civilians in 2012.
Denver police had a six-month trial period last year, and departments in Houston and Las Vegas also launched pilot programs last year. Lawmakers in South Carolina, Nevada and Missouri are considering legislation that would require all police officers in those states to wear cameras.

Officer Kevin Session, who initially approached Detroit police leadership last year about body cameras, said the technology will help police deal with use-of-force issues and other complaints, and will "ultimately save the city money."

A Detroit police watchdog group said Wednesday that the decision to use cameras on a trial basis "is a necessary and right step toward fair law enforcement."

"We appreciate this movement, though we wish it had occurred much sooner," said Ron Scott, spokesman for the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality. "It certainly coincides with a national consensus, from the White House to the community, on the importance of addressing the issue of police misconduct."

Like cameras on patrol car dashboards, body cameras also offer protections for officers, said Duggan, a former county prosecutor.

"There were one or two times where I charged an officer based on the evidence on the dashboard camera," he said. "But there were a whole lot of times where the officers were cleared by those cameras, including a number of cases where individuals made claims of abuse or beating or threats while they were in the patrol car."


TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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