NORWAY, Michigan, October 15th, 2019 ─ The Norway Police Department, in Michigan, currently has 6 body cameras deployed and Chief of Police James Shafer says WOLFCOM body cameras help better officers.
As a small law enforcement agency, the Chief says they have to be extra careful when it comes to credibility. “We had seen there’s a lot of issues in the media and wherever else, and we’re a small agency and a lot of times my officers work alone, so it adds credibility to the officers,” said James. “Not that my none of my officers were credible but if there are 2 officers as opposed to one, it’s a lot more believable. When the body camera is there, there are no ifs, ands, or buts,” he added.
According to Chief Shafer, the decision to go with WOLFCOM body cameras was made through a combination of factors. “I stepped forward and started researching [body cameras] for my department because I’m not going to use them to punish my officers, I want them to better my officers. So, I went out and looked at a lot of cameras and decided on your [Vision] camera based on size, the length of time that we’re gonna be recording, and ease of use. That’s why we went with you,” said the Chief.
The Norway Police Department was fortunate enough to have a citizen help them kickstart their body camera program. According to James, “a citizen was willing to donate money. He goes to Arizona in the wintertime and he’s seen officers that wear them out there and said ‘body cameras are probably good for your department’ and he donated the money. It worked and we were able to buy more.”
“We have a program where we try to buy one or two a year and we replace them when they go bad. We’ve had 4 that we cycled out of use. We’ve used them that much, they’ve seen that much service that we took them out of service ’cause we were beginning to worry if they’re gonna hold up,” said the Chief about their officers really put our cameras to the test.
The Chief claims body cameras help even with their insurance. “My council saw that it lowers [costs] over time ’cause you don’t go to court. My insurance company loves it because they have a 3rd eye there if something goes wrong, so they see it as a protection for insurance companies, too,” said Chief Shafer. “Having the policies in place, of course we went out and did the MML, Michigan Municipal League is our insurer, and got our body camera policies implemented correctly. You gotta have your policies in place. You can’t just let guys run crazy with them and, from there, everybody understands what they have to do with them. It’s easier to do it right from the start, correctly, than it is to play the game and get caught up.
When Norway P.D. first implemented a body camera program, not everybody was on board. “I was, first, resistant to the idea a little bit, as were some of the older officers, and what it came down to was not using them as a punishment for my officers, using them to better my officers. Meaning if I see something ─ ’cause I watch their body camera [videos], we analyze their videos a lot ─ and if they are doing something that’s not safe, we’ll let them know. Or questionable, that could get themselves into jeopardy, we’ll speak about it. We don’t use it as a punishment, we use it to better them,” said the Chief.
According to James, “we’re a very small community, your word is your bond, and it [body camera] backs my officers up 100%. If somebody comes in and wants to complain about my officers or complain about the way something was handled with them, I say ‘hold on, I’ve watched the video, would you like to watch it yourself?’ and, as soon as they find out that there’s a body camera or video of the incident, they change their mind.”
Chief Shafer recommends WOLFCOM to other agencies. “I have referred WOLFCOM to other agencies. They saw me wearing one, ’cause I’m the Chief, and I wear one and they go like ‘what are you wearing?’ and I’m like ‘I’m wearing a body camera ’cause you never know when you’re gonna need them’ and they actually went to your camera, too,” said the Chief. “They carry them and seem to buy them regularly, too,” he added.