Battle Creek approves police body cam contract

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — Battle Creek police officers will be equipped with body cameras after the city commission unanimously approved a proposal Tuesday night.

Police Chief Jim Blocker says he is thankful for the support, especially in a time when budgets are limited.

The department has been piloting cameras from the BodyWorn system on a limited basis.

Commissioner Lynn Ward Gray says body cameras are a needed expense despite the budgetary challenges facing the city.

“This equipment I believe is necessary and so do my fellow commissioner by our vote,” Ward Gray said.

Commissioners approved the contract to spend $737,300 over a five-year period. This will cover 65 body cameras, 40 patrol car cameras and storage of the video clips.

“We have to be very efficient in what we do,” Blocker said. “I wanted the right system that got me what I needed at the best price and that’s what I think this system does.”

Officer Adam Pembrook has been testing out the equipment for the past 30 days.

“As soon as I open my door, this activates. I don’t have to think about it. I don’t have to do anything. It just activates. Same thing when we draw our firearm,” Pembrook said.

The very same day, the funding was approved, an officer fired his gun, hitting and injuring the passenger of a vehicle in a traffic stop early that morning.

Police say he had a loaded gun around his waistband and reached for a second loaded gun on the car floor. 

There is only dashcam video of the incident that has not yet been released, which provides a more limited perspective. With the older equipment, it took hours for investigators to access the video.

Jenasia Morris has been advocating for body cameras and met with the chief this summer to talk about ways to improve the department’s relationship with the community.

“I definitely think it will help with transparency having it in all officers because then everyone is held accountable,” Morris said.

Jeffrey Cotton, founder of the nonprofit Big Homies, Inc. that works with at-risk youth, says more than body cameras are needed to truly make an impact. 

“Body cams can be an asset, but as we’ve just seen in the Breonna Taylor case, just having a body camera on is not going to change the injustices that exist within the system,” Cotton said.

The police chief hopes to have the cameras fully installed within the next 90 days.