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Port Huron to buy 25 body cameras for police department

A screenshot of Mayor Pauline Repp at the April 27 meeting of the Port Huron City Council.
A screenshot of Mayor Pauline Repp at the April 27 meeting of the Port Huron City Council.

By Jim Bloch

Every Port Huron police officer and detective will soon have his or her own body camera.

At its regular meeting April 27, the city council approved the purchase of 25 body cameras and accessories from Midwest Public Safety, LLC, of Decatur, IL for $24,413.

City officials are hoping that a grant from their insurance carrier Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority will pay for $9,918 of the purchase price.

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“Body camera technology is relatively new in the last couple years,” said City Manager James Freed. “When we first rolled it out, we did it in small amounts to make sure it worked. In fact, at one point, we sent cameras back and brought new cameras in to make sure it was in the best interest of our city and they worked best. What we’re doing here is that this will outfit every sworn officer with a body camera. The reason why that’s important is that right now they’re sharing. So if you’re a detective or if you’re an officer who is responding from home, you won’t have to go back to the office and grab your camera. You can go to the scene and begin doing interviews and begin interfacing with your clients. They know when they grab it, it’s going to be charged. There’s personal responsibility and accountability there.”

“That’s a good thing,” said Mayor Pauline Repp.

“How far are we away from getting a device like these cameras that will have facial recognition?” asked council member Ken Harris.

“I personally at this point wouldn’t support facial recognition technology,” said Freed. “There’s a lot of civil rights issues and racial issues tied there that we’ve seen in Detroit. So I think we’re far, far from that ever happening here.”

The purchase includes docking stations, mounts, mount accessories and cloud services for image storage.

Freed summarized the grant in his memo to council.

“Each year the Police Department is able to write a grant through MMRMA for the data storage/cloud fees, along with body camera purchases,” Freed said. “The Police Department is able to request 50 percent of the fees. The reimbursements rates for those are: $250 per body worn camera (25 body cameras x $250 = $6,250 reimbursement); 50 percent of data storage/cloud ($7,335 – 50 percent reimbursement = $3,667.50). A total of $9,917.50 will be reimbursed to the City of Port Huron if the grant through MMRMA is accepted.”

The city made a similar purchase a year ago.

“On March 11, 2019, the Port Huron City Council approved the Police Department’s request to purchase 30 body worn cameras, including software, docking stations, power supplies, clips, storage and warranty, utilizing grant funding in the amount of $38,352.00 that was awarded through the 2015 Homeland Security Grant,” Freed said in his memo.

Mayor Pro Tem Sherry Archibald made the motion to authorize the purchase, supported by council member Lisa Beedon. The council approved the motion by a 7-0 vote.

The council also approved the purchase of 25 Tasers from Axon Enterprises at a cost of $45,375 payable in annual installations of $9,075. With a MMRMA grant, the cost will drop to $32,875.

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