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New bill would require all Michigan police to wear body cameras

Mar 23, 2015

Credit taliesin / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

All Michigan police would have to wear body cameras under a new bill in Lansing.

While several police departments around the state already have body cameras or are planning to adopt them, State Rep. Rose Mary Robinson, D-Detroit, is sponsoring a bill that would make them universal. 

“I want every little community to have it,” she says. “I think it’s really important even in the smallest of villages that people feel free to not fear any kind of reprisal or any kind of abuse,” she says.

“There appears to be national breakdown and tension between police and citizens. And we just feel there has to be a check, a safety, some sort of a safeguard.”

"There appears to be national breakdown and tension between police and citizens. And we just feel there has to be a check, a safety, some sort of a safeguard."

“The whole purpose is to prevent unnecessary abuse by the police, and also to allay any false accusations against the police by someone who has a bad motive,” Robinson says.

The bill would have the state pay for the body cameras, which she estimates would cost about $2.7 million.

But Grand Rapids police have said that the cost of adopting the cameras for their department alone is $1 million.

Privacy concerns: Two bills would limit who can see body cam videos

Robinson’s bill would allow only certain people to access the videos from police body cameras; only the people who are actually in the video can ask for a copy, unless they’re a minor – in which case their parents or guardians can, too.

“If a third person wants a copy of the recording, they have to have the consent of the individual who was recorded,” she says.   

The bill would let police erase the video after 30 days if it doesn’t have any connection to a criminal matter or complaints.

Meanwhile Republican Rep. Jim Runestad of White Lake has already introduced a bill (HB 4234) that would determine who could get access to those videos.

“There’s a lot of concerns they have, and my bill tries to deal with the concerns they have and that the public has,” he told an interviewer recently.

“If these body cams are being worn by police all over the place, what is that going to look like if local media can get that through Freedom of Information [Act] and can put it on the nightly TV shows, blooper shows, [or] reality show?”

“So my bill says that in order to get that information, it has to be subject to a civil or criminal case, or the individual has to be on the film who’s requesting it.”