HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Police officers with Holland Public Safety will soon get body cameras.
Currently, officers have dashboard cameras in all squad cars, along with corresponding microphones worn by officers that record conversations between police and the people on the other end of traffic stops.
“Our officers want the bodycam. We think it’s a really good piece of technology that not only serves our citizens well but it also serves our officers well,” said Holland City Manager Keith Van Beek.
Last week, Holland City Council approved its 2021 budget, which allocates $250,000 for police body cameras. The money covers camera equipment for 45 officers and a system to store the video. It also includes money for a new position that would handle and share the video with the public through Freedom of Information Act requests.
“When there are questions about what happened, having dashcam video and having a microphone on our officers is a really helpful tool,” Van Beek said.
Holland DPS is the second department in Ottawa County to get body cameras following the Zeeland Police Department. Officers from the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety have dashcams and microphones. The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office has neither, but a spokesperson says there have been conversations about the possibility.
Community members say the addition of body cameras are important to transparency.
“When you’re building trust, you need transparency. To be able to look back and see what’s happening, how it’s happening in real time, has made an impact in this country if we think about how the George Floyd trial went with Derek Chauvin. If we didn’t have that camera, it would’ve went different,” said Shutaveya Ward, the assistant director of 70×7 Life Recovery in Holland.
Last summer, following the death of Floyd, Ward organized a Black Lives Matter rally. The rally, which was in partnership with several local organizations and the police department, drew thousands of people to the streets.
“When you know each other’s names, it builds trust. (The police department) partners with the Bous and Girls Club. They have an ice cream truck and give kids ice cream in the summer and I think they’re really trying to move forward,” Ward said.
Ward says the body cameras can serve as a security blanket for communities that have been historically marginalized.
“We have to work together if we want to live in the world where we all feel safe. Me, as a mother of a Black son, I can walk down the street and say I know my son is out here driving and I’m not afraid for his life,” Ward said.
The city says it is dedicated to making Holland a better community for everyone.
“We’re very supportive of the national concerns that have arisen and again, we think this is one tool that adds to the trust that really needs to exist between the community and between our police department. This is a tool that we think only bolsters that trust,” Van Beek said.
Van Beek says there’s not a definitive date that officers will begin wearing body cameras. Money to purchase the body cameras will be available through the city budget on July 1.