New tools including body cameras, Tasers and other non-lethal weapons are coming to DeWitt, Police Chief Bruce Ferguson told the City Council on Feb. 14.
The body cameras are expected to arrive very soon as police completed another round of training this week.
“They’ll be on full-time guys hopefully within a week and then as the part-timers come on board for their shifts we’ll get them trained up and get them going with the new cameras,” Ferguson said.
“That’s great news,” said DeWitt mayor pro-tem Dave Hunsaker said when told the cameras were being distributed soon.
These new cameras will expedite the review of body cam footage that required a download and upload to outdated DVDs footage could be sent to wherever it was requested.
Ferguson said that with the new cameras, “We can just click a button and send it right to their cloud. It’s phenomenal.”
Last year, a DeWitt police officer was embroiled in controversy when he pulled a gun on a Black teen delivering newspapers. The officer, Chad Vorce, was fired from the department on the grounds that he used excessive force, but was reinstated by an arbitrator in December. The department is also replacing old non-lethal options with new weapons. Ferguson pointed to the recent Minnesota shooting where a police officer allegedly reached for her Taser, but pulled out a gun and killed Daunte Wright.
“They’ve got other types of less lethal delivery systems that don’t look like a shotgun,” Ferguson said. “Our beanbag rounds right now are old (Remington) 870’s, we’d like to grab something else that doesn’t look like a shotgun.”
“The new one looks like the little delivery system for tear gas or like a 40 millimeter, supersoaker,” Ferguson said. “We want to move away from a realistic looking gun.”
Ferguson said DeWitt officers were recently forced to turn to non-lethal weapons to detain an individual. Witnesses initially believed police had killed the suspect since the weapon used appeared to be a shotgun, but it was firing only beanbag rounds.
The new beanbag looks like a supersoaker according to Ferguson, helping citizens and police differentiate between firearm and non-lethal weapons.
“So you repurposed a Remington 870, which is a pump shotgun which is very popular, very dependable shotgun, but when you take it out to shoot a beanbag out of it, probably everyone around thinks its a shotgun when you shoot it,” said City Council member Trevor VanDyke. “That’s the reason why they’re looking into getting rid of the repurposed 870 which is a shotgun.”
Ferguson said, “I think it’s important to have a less lethal system based on the amount of mental issues we’re having,” Ferguson said.