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New technology to improve transparency, more
Chesterfield Township police officers will soon be outfitted with body-worn cameras.
The township board of trustees Sept. 8 voted unanimously to purchase a body-worn camera package from WatchGuard at a cost of about $206,800 over five years. The purchase includes 36 body-worn cameras, which will be assigned to all officers and detectives in the department, Public Safety Director Brad Kersten said.
“We’ve had video systems within our cars for the last 25 years, back when we used VHS tapes,” Kersten said at the board’s Sept. 8 meeting, adding that the department has since moved to a wireless in-car system. “This is the final step: A body-worn camera that each officer will wear while he’s out on the road.”
“Any time (officers) have an interaction with a citizen, (the cameras) will be activated,” he added. “But in the background, they’re constantly recording.”
Body-worn cameras assist in many aspects of policing, officials said, helping departments review incidents to improve training, adapt policy and strengthen community relationships.
“I see this as a strong protection for our officers,” Trustee Hank Anderson said.
Along with protecting officers, the public safety director said the cameras will allow the department to provide the most accurate evidence possible to prosecutors in criminal cases.
“It’s a costly expense, but it’s just the way policing has gone to this day and age. … We need to do it, and the men and women of the PD, they do a great job,” Trustee Brian Scott DeMuynck said.
The use of body-worn cameras has led to fewer citizen complaints, less uses of force, an increase in effective prosecutions and an increase in the willingness for citizens to report crimes.
The cameras will also help further the department’s goal of being transparent to the community.
“We are accountable; we are transparent, and this tool just enhances that even more,” Kersten said.
Officials said the department evaluated five in-car video systems with body-worn cameras and sent requests for proposals to Axon, Getac and WatchGuard. WatchGuard was deemed the best fit based on the needs of the department, offering reliable hardware, as well as on-site and cloud-based storage, and is the only company that offers a removable battery.
The motion to approve the purchase of the cameras was made by DeMuynck, supported by Trustee David Joseph and unanimously approved by the board.
“Community policing has been a priority that has come from the top — that is to know the community, to be in the community, to be present in the community,” Joseph said. “It’s seen in the expansion of our open house, our Friends of Chesterfield Police, and all of the great work to make our department truly a community police department. The body cameras add to that, and they show the public what those of us close to it already know.”
Custom-fitted vests are ‘top quality’
Board members also unanimously approved the purchase of 23 custom-fitted Armor Express vests for the public safety department from On Duty Gear LLC, based in Port Huron, at a cost of $16,445. A portion of the cost is expected to be reimbursed through a grant.
“This is top-quality equipment,” Kersten said.
Body armor typically expires after five years. While the Kevlar inside can remain effective, the material around it degrades from frequent use over time.
“Once they’re taken out of service, we keep them in house. We use them as training tools, when we have ride-alongs — we do outfit our ride-alongs. Or when a new employee comes in, we outfit them temporarily until the vest is ordered,” Kersten said, noting that the department has also used them on the gun range as spares and has donated them to training academies.
The motion to approve the purchase of the vests was made by Joseph, supported by DeMuynck and unanimously approved.
Katelyn Larese is a Local News Editor at The Voice. She can be contacted at 586-273-6196 or firstname.lastname@example.org.