Thursday, July 8, 2021

Northville police now wearing body cameras

Northville Township Police officers are now equipped with body cameras that record interactions with the public and increase transparency.

The technology protects both residents and officers by providing a new means of accountability, police officials said.

“Digital evidence is a priority in policing in this social media-savvy world,” Police Chief Paul Tennies said. “Our employees asked for this and our residents did, too. It's another way we are working for a safer community.” 

Northville Township officials planned to add these cameras in 2023, but after use of force incidents across the country received nationwide attention in 2020, members of the Northville Township Board of Trustees approved the accelerated purchase at a cost of $300,000 using drug forfeiture funds and grant money.

Currently the department is equipped with 40 WatchGuard V300s and 21 in-car cameras.

“Public safety is a top priority for residents,” Tennies said. “This tool is an effective means for collecting evidence. Cameras do not capture the entirety of an incident but provide an additional perspective to what occurred during an incident.”

The body camera footage also will assist the department in training exercises, be used in officer reviews and for internal investigations, he added. The body cameras interface with the cameras installed in township patrol cars.  The two work together, capturing synchronized video from an incident from multiple vantage point, Tennies explained. These new systems replaced in-car cameras that were used since the early 2000s, so the technology has significantly advanced, experts noted.

The cameras are triggered when the lights and sirens are turned on. The body camera also may be turned on manually. 

“When we say we added the cameras into our vehicles, it was more than just mounting a camera on a dashboard,” Tennies said. “Several hours of installation were required in each vehicle and to add wiring throughout our station to make all the correct connections and inputs so the body cameras and car cameras work in concert.” 

The cameras have panoramic-like quality that captures the scene similar to the way the human eye works.

While 21 in-car cameras were purchased for the police vehicles to include motorcycles, the Northville Township Fire Department will now also have cameras in department vehicles. 

Key personnel also received special training on how to redact the video to protect the privacy of anyone captured on camera who may not have been a party in the incident.

That critical step often unfolds if the video is necessary to release to the public.  

“The training our department received to use these cameras to their full potential was extensive,” Tennies said. “It was quite an undertaking for our team to evaluate and implement this technology with an accelerated timeline, but we are excited to offer them to Northville Township. Our community will benefit from them for years to come.”