City & Government, Cottage Grove

Grove OKs body cams

COTTAGE GROVE –  On Monday, the Cottage Grove Police Department was awarded a five-year, $205,700 contract to fund the purchase of state-of-the-art body cameras that aim to boost transparency and officer efficiency.

The Cottage Grove city council voted unanimously to approve the contract with weapons manufacturer Axon Enterprises, which manufactures body-cameras for cities across the state. The package proposal will be implemented after officers are trained to use the new equipment and is estimated to be put in practice by February of 2023.

“I’m grateful for our efficiency on this,” said Jon Stinnett, Cottage Grove City Councilor.

Interim Jeff Groth, Cottage Grove chief of police, told council Monday night that the new body cameras will provide for better transparency among the public and improved efficiency among officers, as well as provide a higher quality of evidence necessary for criminal trials in the Cottage Grove Municipal Court.

“It’s long overdue that we have body-worn cameras and I’m excited to be able to move that forward,” Groth said. “Cameras are a common piece of modern policing. Our long-term goal is to be as progressive and professional as we can.”

The package is a part of a bundle that includes the cameras, cloud-based digital storage, upgraded tasers and related in-vehicle equipment.

According to the contract, Groth “recognized the need for body-worn cameras immediately upon his arrival the first of August and was surprised that CGPD was not utilizing them,” and the “arrest on Sept.1 of this year simply reinforced the need.”

The contract comes after recent community input surrounding the arrest of Alexander Harrelson on Sept. 1, where a downtown business’ video surveillance system captured Harrelson holding his hands above his head before being beaten by Cottage Grove police officers.

“This was a priority long before the incident on Sept. 1,” Groth said. “But did it highlight the need for cameras? Yes. The story would be completely different if body-worn cameras were there. And it’s still an unfortunate incident. No doubt about that. But I think it would have been completely different if body-worn cameras were there.”

The total cost of the five year contract is $205,700, which equates to five equal payments of $41,140. The funding was pulled from the Narcotics Fund, which can be used for law enforcement activity and covers the first year of the contract.

The contract includes 15 cameras and uniform mounts, docking stations for charging and uploading data, Signal Sidearm devices for automatic camera activation when firearm is drawn, and necessary licensing and software for devices and 15 tasers.

Axon will replace all equipment after two-and-a-half years of use and again at the end of the proposed five-year contract, Groth said.

Transparency for the public, safety and efficiency among Cottage Grove police officers are key reasons to move ahead with purchasing the body cams, according to Groth.

“It adds a level of professionalism,” Groth said. “It holds officers accountable, but it also holds the community, to some degree, accountable too.”

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