Benton Harbor Public Safety Officers suiting up with body cameras

In January, Benton Harbor Public Safety officers will be required to wear body cameras daily.

Dan McGinnis, Benton Harbor Public Safety Director, made clear at meeting Wednesday night, the body cameras are not being ordered in response to anything that happened in Ferguson or anywhere else.

He said, this is something the department started researching a year ago.

“To us this is a no brainier. We want to have each resident incident recorded properly,” McGinnis said. “We want to make sure that officers are protected, and that residents are protected.”

Director McGinnis says dashboard cameras are no longer enough.

“Once you leave the view of the camera, we are losing a lot of data. Those cameras still pick up audio, but after so many feet you lose that also,” he explained.

That is where the Taser Axon body cameras come in – paid for by a grant.

“We will require the camera to be activated every time there is a citizen contact,” said McGinnis, who presented this information at a public safety meeting Wednesday night.

Residents and city commissioners had a few questions.

“I just think that we need some policies in place to make sure that there is accountability as well as responsibility that goes along with the wearing of these cameras,” Benton Harbor City Commissioner Mary Alice Adams expressed at the podium.

McGinnis agreed, regulations are a must, especially when it comes to officer privacy.

“Obviously we will not have the camera activated while officers are going into restrooms or during conversations among officers, they have a certain amount of rights that have to be protected," said McGinnis.

City leaders hope the extra set of eyes will hold officers more accountable.

The body cameras will not stream live – they will record throughout the day and at the end of each day the officers will be required to plug the camera up to a central computer and upload all of the video.

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