Bills aim to regulate police body cameras in Michigan

The Detroit News
Lansing — State lawmakers are looking at how to regulate the use of body cameras by police in Michigan as more agencies across the country equip their officers with the devices.


In this photo taken Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015, Steve Tuttle, vice president of communications for Taser International, demonstrates one of the company’s body cameras that can be attached to glasses. (Photo: Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

Officers in Detroit are testing them and Grand Rapids is buying 200 body cameras.

One bill that appears to be gaining traction would prohibit the release of certain video from police body cameras, making most footage taken in places defined as private exempt from disclosure under the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

Bill sponsor Rep. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, said he wants to prevent embarrassing or invasive releases of footage that have occurred in other states from happening in Michigan.

He said sometimes police are called to investigate incidents where people would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as in their home or car, but no criminal activity is occurring. Police called to investigate a suspected break-in might capture private details of a person’s home, for example, but there might not actually be a robbery occurring. The release of that footage could be invasive, Runestad said.

He said he’s worked with groups including the state attorney general’s office, the Michigan State Police and the American Civil Liberties Union to find bill language with a “balanced approach between privacy concerns and law enforcement concerns.”

Runestad’s bill would provide guidelines for local police that choose to use body cameras, he said.

That bill’s chances appear better than another that would require local police to use the devices.

The measure from Rep. Rose Mary Robinson, D-Detroit, would call for Michigan State Police to provide reimbursements for local police using body cameras, but it’s unclear where state police would find the money for that.

Robinson said she thinks the state could come up with the funding.

“What value does a human life have? That’s what we have to say to ourselves,” she said.

Rep. Kurt Heise, R-Plymouth, and chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee, said he doesn’t plan on taking up the bill for discussion any time soon. It would be difficult to mandate local use of the cameras without a funding source, he said, not to mention the local resources needed to update, monitor, repair and upgrade the cameras.

“It’s great to say that everybody should have one, but it’s a much different story when you look at the price involved and the technology behind it,” Heise said.

Foster kids’ stories inspire moves to reform

Capital News Service

LANSING – The number of Michigan children in the state’s foster care system is at its lowest in almost a decade, but anecdotes from kids within the system have legislators considering bipartisan reform.

First term Rep. Jim Runestad, a Republican from White Lake, said he has spoken to Rep. John Chirkun, a Democrat from Roseville, about working together to improve the foster care system. Chirkun could not be reached for comment.

About 18 foster children told legislators recently about their experiences in the system, highlighting issues such as sibling separation and limited resources available once they age out of the system.

The children told their stories through an event called KidSpeak, organized by the nonprofit Michigan’s Children to help young people directly address legislators on issues affecting them.

“It’s impossible for anybody to listen to the stories that these kids have to tell and not be moved by it – not be moved to act,” said Michigan’s Children President and CEO Matt Gillard.

Since the most recent KidSpeak event in Oakland County, Gillard said, “We’ve had a number of legislators coming to us … wanting to know how they can help resolve some of the issues the kids have.”

Runestad’s interest in the issue is both a matter of public policy and personal investment. He and his wife have been long-time foster care parents.

There are 13,141 kids in foster care in Michigan. This follows an eight-year downward trend since the state peaked in 2008 with nearly 19,000 kids in care and drew federal criticism.

Currently the state’s foster care system is subject to court-ordered federal oversight, a result of a 2008 lawsuit filed by the national watchdog organization Children’s Rights, which said the case loads were too high and not enough children were finding permanent homes.

A press release on the Children’s Rights website said the Department of Human Services’ focus on improving hiring rates, training and case allocation has led to a significant improvement in the caseloads of child welfare staff.

But the group also points out that, according to the May 2014 Monitoring Report by Public Catalyst, many problem areas in the state’s performance remain.

According to the report, by the end of June 2013 more than 4,600 children in custody were placed with their relatives by DHS. More than 60 percent of those homes were unlicensed. The average length of stay for young children in shelters exceeds the federal requirements.

The report also states 152 children were abused or neglected in foster care during 2013.

Despite these numbers, Stacie Bladen, deputy director of children’s services administration for the Department of Human Services, said Michigan’s foster care system is now seeing far more positive results, with more kids leaving the system than entering.

Bladen said the state is on track to seeing the end of federal oversight.

“We’re very, very interested in having our child welfare system back under full control,” Bladen said. “I think that we have demonstrated significant progress on the majority of items set out in front of us.”

Michigan’s Children said the state has improved over the years, but Gillard was hesitant to say whether the state’s foster care system should be allowed out from under the federal eye.

“I don’t know if I can really comment on that, but I do think that there are a lot of things Michigan could be doing better and should be doing better to help meet the needs of the kids in the foster care system and as they age out of it,” Gillard said.

Runestad, who helped sponsor the recent KidSpeak, said some of the focus areas for foster kids this year are caseworker confidence, sibling separation, too many moves and limited options for young people who age out of the system. He wants to make these issues a legislative priority, looking at how best practices in some areas can be spread more widely.

“There are certainly areas in the system that are in need of improvement,” Runestad said. “I want to really drill down below the surface to see what we can do to make things better.”

A number of the speakers, Runestad said, described instances where stories told in confidence were spread throughout the department. One girl, who was moved 15 times in one year, complained about a lack of continuity that caused academic struggles.

“There were some very heartbreaking stories about what their parents had done to them, about what foster care had done to them,” he said. “But there were almost as many cases of them saying that foster care literally saved their lives.”

Runestad said the event had a marked impression on the eight legislators in attendance.

Bladen said it was an honor to hear the stories and acknowledged the need for an emphasis on sibling connection and older youth services. But she pointed out that in regards to youth services, Michigan is considered a leading state.

“We’re doing a lot around that; we do have some supports in place for older foster care kids in Michigan,” Bladen said. “Could we do more? Sure.”

Michigan has the sixth biggest foster care system in the country, and all sides are quick to acknowledge the system is a complex one.

Nick Lyon, who has been named to run a combined Department of Health and Human Services in Michigan, said in an interview that some counties do a better job at handling issues in foster care than others.

Bladen said there were many factors that cause differences in the number of children entering into the system in the counties.

“I know there are differences in county removal rates,” she said. “A different court, a different county, may differ in their perspective as to whether a child should be removed or not.

“Looking both at exits and entries, we have more kids exiting than entering, and that’s a good thing. In the past five years we have focused on assisting our families and our youth in achieving permanency.”

Bladen added the DHS’s focus on preventive care has had a huge impact on the numbers.

Both Runestad and Gillard said that, while the state might be doing more, it still isn’t doing enough.

“I would agree with DHS that certain counties handle it differently than others, but I would also add to that: The state has an obligation,” Gillard said. “These kids in the foster care system are the responsibility of the state as well, and the state has a responsibility to make sure the needs of these kids are being met to the best of their ability.”

Additional resources for CNS editors:

Monthly fact sheet provided by the DHS: Children in care by county as of January 31, 2015

Alcona – 32
Alger – 9
Allegan – 141
Alpena – 52
Antrim – 37
Arenac – 53
Baraga – 15
Barry – 79
Bay – 157
Benzie – 10
Berrien – 325
Branch – 102
Calhoun – 296
Cass – 171
Charlevoix – 35
Cheboygan – 36
Chippewa – 49
Clare – 71
Clinton – 46
Crawford – 52
Delta – 35
Dickinson – 56
Eaton – 107
Emmet – 48
Genesee – 534
Gladwin – 31
Gogebic – 24
Grand Traverse – 68
Gratiot – 42
Hillsdale – 114
Houghton – 11
Huron – 40
Ingham – 620
Ionia – 48
Iosco – 53
Iron – 6
Isabella – 100
Jackson – 277
Kalamazoo – 722
Kalkaska – 32
Kent – 1130
Lake – 56
Lapeer – 65
Leelanau – 15
Lenawee – 108
Livingston – 187
Luce – 45
Mackinac – 23
Macomb – 648
Manistee – 28
Marquette – 62
Mason – 65
Mecosta – 75
Menominee – 32
Midland – 67
Missaukee – 10
Monroe – 172
Montcalm – 56
Montmorency – 15
Muskegon – 407
Newaygo – 120
Oakland – 799
Oceana – 33
Ogemaw – 29
Ontonagon – 4
Osceola – 28
Oscoda – 11
Otsego – 48
Ottawa – 195
Presque Isle – 15
Roscommon – 36
Saginaw – 192
St. Clair – 312
St. Joseph – 128
Sanilac – 67
Schoolcraft – 19
Shiawassee – 82
Tuscola – 93
Van Buren – 145
Washtenaw – 227
Wayne– 2497
Wexford – 59
Total: 13,141

Runestad named vice chair of House Committee on Families, Children, and Seniors

State Rep. Jim Runestad was named vice chair of the House Committee on Families, Children, and Seniors. In addition he will serve on three additional House committees for the 2015-2016 term.

Runestad was also named to the House Committees on Local Government, Insurance and Judiciary.

“As a foster parent myself I am eager to serve as vice chair of the House Committee on Families, Children, and Seniors. I know firsthand the struggles that children in the system can go through and I am dedicated to make sure all those without a voice are heard,” said Runestad, R-White Lake Township. “All four committees are important for Michigan residents and I am committed to working with my colleagues to create a better future for all Michigan residents”

House committees review all legislation that affects their issue area and make recommendations as to whether the full House should take up the bills.  Committee chairs decide when bills are heard, run the committee meetings and organize informational hearings to help lawmakers and the public understand important issues.

Standing Room Only


A standing-room only crowd filled White Lake Township hall Monday as State Rep. Jim Runestad was sworn into office during a local inauguration ceremony.

Elected in November after what he referred to as a “tough campaign,” Runestad steps into the seat vacated by term-limited Eileen Kowall represent Michigan’s 44th District communities of Milford Township – which includes the Village of Milford – as well as Highland Township, White Lake Township, Springfield Township, and part of Waterford Township.

“I think (Runestad) will do a marvelous job,” said Kowall, who attended Monday’s ceremony. “He’s hard-working, honest and connected to people. He’ll be a good representative for the people of the 44th District, and that includes me.”

State House 93rd District Rep. Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt Township – speaker pro tempore for the House 2015-2016 legislative session – spoke during the event, offering Runestad a few word of advice.

“The first thing I tell people who are going into politics is to make certain you are being respectful to every person you come in contact with,” Leonard said. “I don’t care if it’s a member of the opposite party, if it’s someone higher… or lower than you. One, it’s just the right thing to do, but two… you never know… if you are going to need that person. There’s a lot of people in Ionia County right now that never knew a lowly county commissioner by the name of Brian Calley would soon become the lieutenant governor of the State of Michigan.”

Leonard also advised Runestad to “make certain there’s no job below you,” and to “never forget to be thankful” to those who supported his campaign.

Oath administered

Before administering the oath of office, Oakland County Sixth Circuit Court Judge Michael Warren recited a portion of the Declaration of Independence, telling the crowd of supporters he’s known Runestad “a very, very long time.”

“He is going to take an oath to the Michigan Constitution and the United States Constitution,” Warren said. “Those constitutions are built on the Declaration of Independence, and it’s a passion he and I share; it’s not always true that all our elected officials know, in depth, our Constitution and Declaration, but Jim does. Over the years as a county commissioner he’s been on the forefront for making sure we remember those things.”

Runestad thanked his supporters, giving special acknowledgment to his wife and children.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am to be sworn in and start this new adventure,” said Runestad, who served six years with the Oakland County Board of Commissioners. “I feel I can make a big impact; I feel I was able to do a lot of the things I wanted to accomplish at Oakland County, and I feel I will be able to accomplish a lot of those same things at the state level.”

For starters, Runestad said he wants to bring the e-verify system, which he instituted in Oakland County, to the state level. The Internet-based system allows employers to determine a prospective employee’s eligibility to work in the U.S.

While committee appointments for the House had not been made before Monday’s ceremony, Runestead, an insurance agent, said he requested a seat on the health and insurance committees, as well as children, family, seniors and judiciary.

Committee announcements were expected Wednesday in Lansing.

Family support

A number of Runestad’s family members were on hand during Monday’s event along with dozens of supporters, elected officials from both the state and level and other community leaders.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Runestad’s wife, Kathy Runestad, after the ceremony. “I’m very proud of him and the work he’s done. He’s an honest, good, genuine person, and when he says he’ll get something done, he’ll get it done.”

Runestad’s brother and sister-in-law made sure to arrive early to claim front-row seats.

“We’re extremely proud; obviously this is quite an accomplishment,” said Ron Runestad, a Metamora resident. “Over the years, we’ve had some intense family discussions about all kinds of issues. It’s been a passion of Jim’s for a long time to be able to serve and make a difference.”

Sister-in-law Sherry Runestad agreed.

“I admire the passion he has,” she said. “It’s just something that burns from within.”

[email protected] | 248-390-7396

Local office hours

State Rep. Jim Runestad will hold local office hours the first Saturday of each month at the following locations:

Dave & Amy’s, 9595 Highland Road, White Lake, 8-9 a.m.

Colasanti’s Market, 468 South Milford Road, Highland, 10-11 a.m.

Bakers of Milford, 2025 South Milford Road, noon-1 p.m.

Join Us for My Local Inauguration Ceremony!

I would like to personally invite you to join me
for my local inauguration ceremony in
White Lake Township. 

The Honorable Michael Warren will administer the oath of office.

Monday, January 12, 2015

5:30 p.m.

White Lake Township Hall

7525 Highland Road

White Lake, MI 48383


This event is open to all members of our community.

Pizza and beverages will be provided.

Runestad Attends ALEC States & Nation Policy Summit

20141203_164502This last December Representative Runestad attended the ALEC States and Nation Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. with about 1,000 other legislators and policy experts who came together to debate free market solutions for state fiscal problems.

As America’s largest nonpartisan, voluntary membership organization of state lawmakers, ALEC brings together legislators, policy experts and business leaders to exchange and share ideas.

The ALEC States and Nation Policy Summit, in Washington, D.C., was a fantastic opportunity to join the conversation on limited government and free market policies.

You’re invited to my victory party

Join us!

Tuesday night is the night of big victories for Michigan Republicans.

Jim Runestad is holding a victory party for all his State House race supporters and to celebrate Republican victories across the state at his home at 2210 Teggerdine, White Lake, MI 48386, on Tuesday evening after the polls close at 8:00 p.m.

Also, we will have plenty of food, libations, and our computers will be going throughout the night to follow all the results of the vast Republican victories across the state.


Runestad on “Let It Rip”

Fox 2 News

On October 23, Jim participated on the FOX 2 “Let It Rip” program concerning immigration and jobs. 

The question:
Do illegal immigrants really take jobs that U.S. citizens wouldn’t work?

Our panel:

  • Charlie LeDuff, award-winning journalist and chief correspondent for The Americans With Charlie LeDuff.
  • Adonis Flores, immigration activist
  • Jim Runestad, Oakland County commissioner
  • Charlie Langton, Fox 2 legal analyst