Ypsilanti's city council approved body cameras for police officers at Tuesday night’s meeting in city hall.
Police Chief Tony DeGiusti requested the cameras as part of a series of overdue updates to the department’s deteriorating patrol car cameras, microphones and the DVD burning system police use to make copies of patrol videos for lawyers.
Council members emphasized that the body camera idea has been in the pipeline since May, months before the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri made officer accountability front-page news.
Chief DeGiusti says his research shows other departments are seeing fewer citizen complaints, less use of force, and better behavior on both sides when cops have body cameras, though he says excessive force and complaints are “non-issues” for Ypsilanti police.
And he says at a time when everybody can take video on their phones and might only capture part of an encounter, body cameras let police record the whole thing.
Officers will turn on their body cameras as soon as they come into contact with a civilian.
The council discussed privacy concerns about police body cameras circulated by the ACLU. DeGiusti says he is well aware of those issues, and he’ll be briefing the council about updated policies regarding the body cameras.
This comes just as the Washtenaw County Sheriff's office announces that its officers will also be using body cameras, and President Obama unveiled a series of grants for police body cameras and related training.
Chief DeGiusti says the numbers alone make it unlikely that Ypsilanti could get some of that grant money, but that the deal they've struck with the camera provider will give them several body cameras for free.
He predicts they'll receive the cameras and finish training in time for officers to begin wearing the body cameras in early March of 2015.