$1.1 million purchase to be spread over 5 years
By ZEINAB NAJM
HEIGHTS — The Police Department soon will have body-worn cameras and in-car cameras following the approval of a five-year, $1.1 million purchase from Axon.
The City Council unanimously approved the recommendation made by Police Chief Jerrod Hart June 28. There was no timeline provided on when the cameras will be received by the department.
A $172,000 Department of Justice grant — approved by council in February — will be used for the body-worn camera portion of the cost.
“I’ve checked with the federal government — the grant manager in Washington, D.C. — and they stated that as long as this meets our requirements for sole source and is approved by council, that we would be able to move forward with Axon,” Hart said.
The cost of the program was broken down to $228,482.56 for each budget year, including a $273,964 savings over the five years based on the quote given the city by Axon. An initial payment of $154,405.22 was authorized as part of the council approval.
Councilman Mo Baydoun said the cameras are a great thing.
“It’s a long time coming for the city of Dearborn Heights,” he said. “This is accountability here, and I thank the chief for bringing this forward.”
Councilman Robert Constan said the body cameras will more than pay for themselves, saying that if there’s ever an issue about excessive force the cameras speed up resolution.
“I know in the city of Dearborn, they had the body cameras and we could play a video of an arrest if there was a discussion with the defense attorney or questions,” he said. “So, it’s a fairly large amount of money but a good investment.”
“So, it’s really an excellent program that Axon developed, and they have some very innovative products,” Hart said. “I believe this is a very good five-year program for the community.”
Axon Account Executive Jen Skouson said the department will get new equipment at the start, with refreshes at the halfway point and at the end of the five years.
“The city will get three full sets of body cameras for each officer,” she said. “With the in-car solution, you will get new hardware at year five. This makes renewal costs a little bit less expensive because you have all brand new hardware.”
Everything provided has a five-year, no-questions-asked warranty if equipment were to be damaged, Skouson said. The damaged or old equipment will be sent to and from Axon free of charge to the city.
The process to obtain the cameras began in November 2020 under then-Police Chief Mark Meyers, followed by bids in early 2021, before the department did a product assessment and evaluation of two companies.
“This process had been bid out before, and what I’m asking council to do is to approve Axon as a sole source since it has proprietary software to speak to our new Taser 7s,” Hart said. “We’re also going to add some features in there that anytime a gun is unholstered that the body camera also comes on, so it’s kind of separate from all of the bidding processes that were done before.”
Of the six bids received, Axon and Watchguard were the two finalists.
“Axon is the company that staff did a test and evaluation on, and came to the conclusion that they were the best product for Dearborn Heights, and I completely agree with them,” Hart said.
Councilman Hassan Ahmad and Council Chair Dave Abdallah praised the work done by the department and talked of the importance of the program to the city and residents.
The question of the highest cost being for storage was raised by Councilman Tom Wencel, to which Hart said cloud storage is expensive.
“I can speak to you from experiences in other communities where we had our local servers fail, and we had some use of force incidents, and we were unable to bring up the audio and video from those incidents,” Hart said. “So, we’re kind of taking that threat, so to speak, out of the equation here by storing our video in the cloud, and it is rather expensive.”
Hart was speaking during the meeting via Zoom since he was at a conference where he said he had the opportunity to speak with partners at the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority.
“They have some grants that I will also be able to apply for after the fact here, and they cover about 50 percent of cloud storage,” he said.
Wencel asked if there would be additional charges for retrieving data from storage, to which Hart replied there would not be.
“That would be through the licenses that we have for Evidence.com, which is a very powerful tool, and it does allow certain privileges for staff to be able to see and ultimately share videos with our prosecutor’s office, with our court system and more,” Hart said.
Skouson said Axon does not have access to the department’s video files, which will be on its own server.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])