Kzoo County Sheriff’s Office plans to wear body cameras

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office is planning to have all patrol officers wear body cameras. 

The sheriff’s office withdrew a request earlier this year because of a lack of identifiable funding.

Undersheriff James VanDyken made a presentation explaining the plan at the virtual commission meeting Tuesday night. He said the sheriff was attending to a family emergency and unable to attend.

The office is planning to acquire 60 body cameras.

The plan originally called to replace aging patrol vehicle cameras purchased in 2008, but the department decided to hold off on that idea.

“We are going to continue to leave the vehicle cameras in place at this point. The majority of them are working. The problem is we got to the point where three quarters of the fleet had cameras and the other quarter did not and then it’s hard to explain when an event occurs why this deputy had a camera that’s working and this deputy did not,” VanDyken said.

Sheriff’s officials say the patrol car cameras are obsolete and do not have the ability to work in conjunction with the body camera system. 

The new system will automatically activate the body cameras when a Taser or firearm is drawn. They will also turn on when a gunshot is detected.

The total cost is $825,000 spread out over five years and will come out of the existing sheriff’s office budget.

Officials are applying for a $65,000 grant. They are also planning to reduce some operational expenses and eliminate a position to help cover the cost.

The office began testing systems in 2016 and determined the Axon system will best meet its need.

It provides the ability to store the footage on the cloud through automatic uploads. The cameras are obtained through a leasing program and will be updated regularly to the latest technology.