GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapids Police Department chief is responding to new police reform legislation in Washington meant to make body cameras more effective.
Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, introduced the Officers Accountability Training and Honesty Act of 2022 last Thursday.
The bill would give police departments more funding to review body camera footage more often. The goal is to improve officer training and conduct by studying more “real-life scenarios.”
“The OATH Act would require police departments to take footage on a regular basis and show it to other officers,” Lawrence told News 8. “If you find any bad behavior, you can correct it department-wide.”
A pilot program would make the extra funding available to law enforcement to create more training opportunities.
“While federal funding is available for you to buy the bodycams, the departments lack the resources needed to use the personal footage to use it as a training opportunity,” Lawrence said.
“I think it’s actually a great idea,” GRPD Chief Eric Winstrom told News 8 on Wednesday. “We will never turn down more resources, especially for something as important as training.”
Reviewing body camera video is beneficial but it can also be time-consuming, Winstrom said. That’s why he’s praising this idea, as the legislation would allow police to dedicate more resources to reviewing body camera footage.
“It really is a positive to throw out there,” Winstrom said. “If there’s going to be more funding for a supervisor to sit down, or a supervisor who’s writing curriculum for training, to have the opportunity to spend that time watching the video, it’s a tremendous benefit.”
The idea could be implemented in multiple ways at GRPD, Winstrom said.
“More money could be for another budgeted spot, for another supervisor whose role is simply to audit body camera video,” he said.
The money could also cover overtime pay for training officers. Winstrom said they could even “produce compilation videos” of body camera footage to show recruits.
The police shooting of Patrick Lyoya, which happened one month ago Wednesday, was Lawrence’s motivation for putting the bill forward. Lawrence attended Lyoya’s funeral in April.
“How did a traffic stop escalate to someone losing their life?” Lawrence said. “The whole purpose of this bill is to be proactive, instead of reactive. And that’s why training is a proactive tool we can give to our police that they will be trained constantly based on situations.”
Lawrence said the bill “empowers my police and protects the citizens of this country.”
“A prepared, a trained, professional, compassionate and accountable police department is what this country needs,” she said. “We need to fund our police to give them the tools they need and then hold them accountable.”
Even if the bill passes the U.S. House, where Democrats hold a solid majority, it would need 60 votes to pass the Senate, meaning several Republicans would need to say yes.
“In Congress, when you have an opportunity to make a difference, we can’t continue to have moments of silence, and best wishes to the family, we’re going to have to do our job and legislate and make policies,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence told News 8 she hasn’t gotten a no yet and she’s going to work hard to make her legislation a reality.
“I feel very strongly that this will be transformational, and we’ll be able to make a difference,” she said.