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Need for Body Cams in the Sheriff's Department BOC Meeting 10-21-2020

Keli Macintosh


My focus for speaking today at the Board of Commissioners meeting is on the purchase of body cams for the sheriff department. My interest stems from my involvement with the ACLU’s Smart Justice Campaign

There has been some question as to if there is a need for such a purchase. Sheriff Bensley said, “No one has shown us the need for body cameras for our officers because of abuses or use of excessive force.” Instead he spent money on more tasers to provide the opportunity for officers to maintain better control of situations. But he also said, despite an open-door policy, that he was not aware of the behaviors of jail administrator Ritter in his position at the jail. Just because the Sheriff is not aware of any problems, doesn’t mean such abuses aren’t happening. An open-door policy never works if there is a toxic workplace environment.

The possibility of bringing this about is supported by the community.

It’s my understanding that both the city and county law enforcements offices were presented with the idea of purchasing body cams at the same time in June. In case you are unaware, the city commission has already approved a purchase order for theirs. I would hope the Sheriff Department could exhibit the same level of efficiency.

There have been a few comments against using body cams in the Sheriff Department.

- There will be an increased work load to look through the resulting recordings. There is computer software that can assist in the monitoring and redaction of images. Other agencies have found having body cams has lessened their workload. Perhaps the Sheriff could learn from them.

- There will be increased work for the Prosecutor. It has been shown the use of body cams saves time and money by decreasing the need for talking with witnesses.

I guess I need to remind you there is a nationwide effort to decrease the number of incarcerations in our country. The Michigan Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarcerations has already had bills accepted in Lansing that will drastically change law enforcement practices.

Body cams can be used in defense of law enforcement officers as well as to help prosecute felons. I find it difficult to understand why our county is so far behind in installing this universally accepted practice. Maybe the BOC needs to give some assistance to the Sheriff, perhaps even pressure him, to get the body cam policy in place.

And the funding should be automatically approved.

The views expressed in this article are not necessarily the view of the Grand Traverse Dems


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