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An offer too good to refuse

MURFREESBORO – The Murfreesboro Police Department will get new body cameras a bit sooner than expected, and with a cost savings.

MPD Chief David Griffith presented the proposal to the Town Council at their meeting here on Wednesday, Nov. 18.

“I was planning on bringing this up in our next budget [in June],” Griffith began. “I was trying to go with a different vendor for our body cameras because our [current] cameras are about six to seven years old.”

Griffith explained his proposal would upgrade to newer cameras from Axon. Though the price is expensive, he noted, it would also include better data storage options and a good replacement policy.

If the town accepted the proposal, there would be a five-year payment plan. Griffith said Axon divides up payment like that to make it easier for smaller agencies to afford them.

“I was contacted by an anonymous citizen who wanted to donate years one and two,” Griffith reported the reason why he was bringing the idea to the Council earlier than intended.

That would leave the town only responsible for paying the last three years of the plan. Griffith estimated that would put the cost for the town at $7,900 per year. They would likely start paying that in next year’s budget.

“I know that’s a steep price,” he admitted, “but body cameras are saving officers’ lives and saving careers, and saving municipalities a lot of money on liability right now. They’re a lifesaver.”

“Our policy dictates every time you have a citizen encounter, you have to activate your camera,” Griffith also noted.

The council discussed the options, recognizing several advantages of the opportunity despite the cost the town would have to pay.

“It’s not very often you get a citizen who wants to make a $15,000 donation,” said Council member David Brown.

“That’s the biggest selling point right now,” Mayor Hal Thomas agreed.

Council member Berna Stephens also spoke in favor of the proposal, noting that updated technology benefits both citizens and the police department.

“My opinion is that someone is donating the money. It’s better [to have cameras] before something happens and then we say we wish we had it,” she explained. “In today’s environment, you never know what the officers are going to encounter. I believe in protecting them as well as the citizens.”

Council member Craig Dennis motioned to approve the proposal, and Stephens seconded. The vote was unanimously in favor. Council member Sarah Wallace was not present at the meeting to vote.

“They will be a great asset to our department,” Griffith concluded.