The city of Columbus is planning to invest in $4.5 million into upgrading police body cameras, but some agencies across the state say they can’t afford it.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, the city’s investment proposal comes after the shooting of an unarmed Black man by a police officer who did not have his body camera turned on.
Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther announced that body cameras worn by Columbus Police Department will be upgraded to contain new technology, including new video and audio features, to deal with potential lapses in current technology that led to problems in investigating police conduct.
An example of these lapses was the shooting of Andre Hill, where Officer Adam Coy (who is charged with murder) hadn’t turned his camera on. Following the shooting, the issue of body camera technology has become of greater importance. Agencies across the state have emphasized the need for cameras with a longer lookback feature with audio.
Since current body camera technology only captures 60 seconds of video before turning it on and doesn’t have audio, information could potentially have been lost.
To remedy this problem, the city plans to invest in wireless body camera technology with longer lookback features with audio, that will also allow footage to be transferred to dashboard cameras and have the ability to automatically turn on when an officer exits a cruiser. Footage may also be watched live by superiors.
While most body cameras have lookback capabilities up to 30 to 60 seconds, some cities, such as Bexley and Madison Township, use body cameras that can record up to 2 minutes of lookback video and audio. Madison Township said their cameras have the feature, but it had not been turned on due to issues in battery life.
Currently, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Ohio Attorney General’s office does not know exactly which agencies across the state use body camera technology. According to a survey by The Dispatch of 54 central Ohio agencies, 61% use body cameras.
An additional 11 agencies are in the process of researching and purchasing body cameras, while the remaining 10 have no plans to acquire them, citing too high a cost or the lack of sufficient officers to make use of them.
Sharon Township said that they did not have enough money to buy the cameras, store the footage, and hire a staff member to handle record requests related to the video files.
Other departments simply believe the cameras are not necessary. Columbus Regional Airport Authority Police said they do not use cameras because there are plenty of surveillance cameras throughout the terminals and airport property.
To work around economic constraints, the governor’s budget proposal calls for $10 million in grants to be made available for law enforcement agencies to purchase body cameras.
Newark Police Chief Steven Baum said his agency received a $100,000 quote for the cost of 40 body cameras, which covers warranties, software, and associated costs. However, the agency still needs to get permission from the state to purchase and use the cameras.
“We actually have a quote and are working toward permission to buy them and deploy them, but that would be a process because first of all, it would have to be a line item and it would have to be placed into a budget, and then there would have to be a policy developed, which would come from the state … with the best practices on when to deploy them,” Baum said.
Columbus PD, which first acquired body cameras in 2015, hopes to upgrade its technology to include the new video and audio features by the end of the year.