GRPD body cams: ‘People will be watching’

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The first shipment of body cameras has been delivered to the Grand Rapids Police Department.

GRPD announced Thursday that 20 officers will be outfitted with an Axon Body 2 Camera made by TASER International. Each officer was trained before they wore the body cameras on duty Thursday night.

They will be the first to wear the body cameras in Grand Rapids since the pilot phase earlier this year.

“I think people will be watching because I don’t know of an agency larger than us that has put these on in our area,” GRPD Lt. David Schnurstein said.

GRPD ordered a total of 298 cameras but has only gotten some of them because production is backed up due to a dramatic increase in orders.

“They’re in high demand right now,” TASER spokesperson Steve Tuttle said of body cameras.

That demand has been fueled by national outrage over the deaths of several citizens at the hands of officers.

In 2013, TASER said, its body camera sales were between $1 million and $2 million. They have jumped to $36.9 million this year. More than 3,500 agencies have purchased more than 64,000 of TASER’s Axon body-worn cameras, and TASER can’t build them fast enough. The company, which is headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, had to hire 150 new people this year alone to keep up.

TASER said it plans to have all of the remaining units delivered to Grand Rapids by the end of February 2016.

“I think it’s a beneficial tool for us versus someone being worried about capturing something that they’ve done wrong,” GRPD Sgt. Brad Bush said.

The Axon Body 2 Cameras were chosen because they come with large data storage and long battery life. The cameras activate automatically when a patrol car’s lights and sirens are activated and vibrate when recording.

They can also instantly send video to officers’ phones, allowing  them to fill out reports faster, have the video evidence attached instantly and share video with prosecutors in seconds — all while keeping it secure.

Held on with magnets, GRPD officers will wear the cameras in the center of their chest.

“One of our goals with this was to minimize the impact on the workflow of the officers,” Schnurstein explained. “The most critical function they provide is enforcement activity – responding to emergencies, taking enforcement action – not managing and monkeying with technology in a car.”

In September, the city commission approved $1.8 million to purchase the cameras for every officer. The department is also getting new Tasers as part of the deal.

“The GRPD prides itself on being professional and progressive. This is another example of our being responsive to those we serve. The full implementation of our body worm camera program is indicative of our continued commitment to transparency,” GRPD Chief David Rahinsky said in a news release.

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