Cost concerns keeping body cameras out of some Mid-Michigan police departments, Michigan State Police

Published: Oct. 9, 2020 at 11:24 PM EDT
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GLADWIN CO., Mich. (WJRT) (10/09/2020)-Many of the nation’s police departments still don’t have body cameras.

Fast becoming a crucial tool in the fight for greater transparency and accountability, cost is still a factor.

Body camera footage you saw first on ABC 12 back in August showed the moments leading up to the February stabbing of a Saginaw Police K-9 and the fatal shooting that followed. The tape cleared officers of wrongdoing.

Then there’s what happened in Flint Sunday: a local man shared pictures of his bruised and battered face on social media, claiming police roughed him up during a drunk driving stop. Flint Police have said it’s just the opposite: the victim sustained his injuries in a crash. Police Chief Terence Green admitted body cameras might have come in handy.

“There’s nothing to contradict what the officers wrote in their original reports,” said Green.

A 2019 Washington Post survey found around half of the US' 18-thousand police departments had some form of body camera program in place. As for those who don’t, it likely comes down to cost.

The City of Gladwin has them, the Sheriff’s Department doesn’t and wants a new tool in its arsenal.

“I think it validates both sides of the story because… it doesn’t skew its views.”

Sheriff Michael Shea explains the sticker shock that comes with the cost of maintaining the cameras and storing the data.

“Yes, they’re a very valuable tool,” related Shea. “The cost of having body cams for the entire department is… actually probably very close to that of an officer.”

A Michigan State Police spokesperson told ABC 12 that while they have dash cams, they still don’t widely use body cameras.

According to one estimate put out by DC based Police Executive Forum, body cameras cost around $2200 a year, meaning the state would shell out around $3-million annually to outfit most troopers on road patrol.

State Police said Friday it’s looking into buying them. As is Gladwin County, but that, the sheriff said, might call for an operating millage or something similar to keep them funded.

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