Body cameras proposed on conservation officers spark opposition | New



LANSING – For many Michigan police departments, turning on a body camera is part of an officer’s daily routine.

The Department of Natural Resources could similarly adapt if a recently introduced House bill passes.

Representative Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain’s bill would require conservation officers to wear body cameras when working in the field.

Conservation officers are trained and certified under the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards Act and can arrest people who are intoxicated or in disorder.

They can search private property when there is a probable cause, except homes and other accommodation, according to Michigan’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act.

The use of body cameras could reduce use of force incidents and citizen complaints against officers, LaFave said.

“Our DNR officers are frequently found in very rural areas,” said LaFave. “They are all alone in the depths of the woods, and if someone says they did something wrong, or if they do something wrong, we need a clear record of what happened. really happened. “

The DNR does not require audio or video equipment for its agents.

The ministry opposes the bill, said Ed Golder, a public information officer for the agency.

“First, the bill distinguishes MNR law enforcement officers as being legally required to wear body cameras,” Golder said. “We believe this discussion should focus largely on all law enforcement officials, not just MNR officials.

“We are also concerned about the lack of time to roll out a possible body camera implementation plan or create comprehensive policies regarding the use of cameras,” he said.

LaFave said body cameras are widely used by similar law enforcement agencies.

“I find it very incredibly disturbing that the Department of Natural Resources opposes this legislation, and I find it curious that our state police have fully embraced body cameras,” said LaFave. “Our counties have adopted body cameras, with sheriff’s deputies, and our premises with their police and their services.

“There is only one agency in the state of Michigan that enforces the laws that refuse to wear body cameras, and that is the DNR,” he said.

From August 22 to September 4, two arrests were made by DNR agents, according to their latest bimonthly report.

In the past 10 months, the department has given more than 900 citations and assisted in more than 150 arrests, according to bimonthly reports from December 2020 to September 2021.

Most MNR law enforcement included issuing citations to anglers and hunters who violated hunting and fishing regulations.

Michigan United Conservation Clubs, which represents more than 40,000 hunters and fishermen and more than 200 local clubs in the state, has not taken a position on the bill, according to Amy Trotter, the executive director.

“Besides the political discussion, the bill represents an important unfunded mandate,” Golder said.

“There has been no discussion of a separate appropriation bill to provide funds to immediately purchase camera equipment, pay for training, pay for digital storage space or the additional staff that would be required to manage everything. which aligns with body cameras, ”he said. noted. “We do not have available funds or current staff to devote to this proposal at this time.”

The bill would not provide MNR with funding for body cameras, according to a House Fiscal Agency analysis by legislative analyst Emily Smith and tax analyst Austin Scott.

The analysis indicated that an increase in costs for the department would be possible, but the extent of the potential increase is unclear and would vary by camera.

LaFave said the cost to purchase body camera equipment would be close to $ 260,000, with annual maintenance and data storage costs at $ 87,000 per year.

“It really is a drop in the bucket compared to how much money this is going to save the state of Michigan and ensure that people’s rights are not violated,” LaFave said.

The bill was referred to the House Military, Veterans and Homeland Security Committee, which LaFave chairs.


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