All Ohio state patrol troopers to wear body cameras by May

Camera systems are also being installed in more than 1,200 cruisers

By Jeremy Pelzer

COLUMBUS, Ohio—All 1,500 Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers out on patrol will be outfitted with body cameras by next May, Gov. Mike DeWine and state law-enforcement officials announced Tuesday.

Camera systems are also being installed in more than 1,200 highway patrol cars, so each time troopers turn on their lights and sirens, their body cameras will automatically start recording – as will two additional cameras mounted on the dashboard and in the back seat, the officials said during a demonstration at the highway patrol’s training academy in Columbus.

The highway patrol will pay $15 million over the next five years from its operating budget to purchase and install the cameras, as well as buy data storage and cover other operational costs, according to a press release from DeWine’s office.

Under the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s camera system, the three cameras, when activated, will remain on until the traffic stop is over and the trooper turns them off via a computer tablet in the car, according to Lt. Nathan Dennis, a highway patrol spokesman. The cameras will still continue recording for a period even after the trooper turns them off.

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While an incident is still in progress, troopers will only be allowed to turn their body cameras off for short periods, such as during administrative conversations or when troopers use the bathroom, according to highway patrol officials. Before shutting off body cameras in such situations, each trooper will have to say out loud why they are turning off their camera, which records both video and audio.

State troopers in the Columbus district will be the first to receive body cameras by November 2021, followed by eight other highway patrol districts and highway patrol headquarters, according to a DeWine release. The Cleveland highway patrol district is set to get body cameras by February of 2022.

Highway patrol troopers won’t have to wear cameras if they’re working desk jobs or doing duties that aren’t out in the field, according to patrol officials.

DeWine, a Greene County Republican, first called for state troopers to be outfitted with body cameras more than a year ago, as part of a package of police reforms he proposed in the wake of mass protests following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

The governor, during a press conference at the patrol’s training academy, said body cameras “will be an important tool in community-police relations.”

“They will enhance public trust and give our citizens another reason to have confidence in the professionalism of the Ohio State Highway Patrol,” said DeWine, adding body cameras will also help provide detailed documentation of crash and crime scenes and provide evidence against drunk drivers and drug traffickers.

Body cameras, in general, have widespread support from both law-enforcement officers (for reasons such as that they protect officers from frivolous accusations) and members of the public (many of whom feel cameras deter and document police misconduct). Research has indicated that police departments that use body cameras have seen reductions in both police use of force and misconduct allegations against officers.

“We do not shy away from being transparent with the public,” said Col. Richard S. Fambro, the superintendent of the Highway Patrol. “This is how we build public trust with the communities that we serve throughout the state of Ohio.”

State troopers have used dashboard cameras for years. Fambro said the rollout of body cameras is an “enhancement” to the existing system.

Ohio is not one of the seven states that currently require all law-enforcement officers to wear body cameras while in the field. DeWine’s office estimated back in September that up to two-thirds of all law-enforcement agencies in the state — primarily smaller agencies — don’t have body cameras due to the price of equipment and video storage.

But DeWine also noted Tuesday that the current state budget provides a total of $10 million in grants for local police departments to purchase body cameras and pay for related expenses.

There have been a large number of applications for that grant money, DeWine said, indicating that there’s a “desire” by law enforcement to get cameras for their officers. The first round of grant recipients will be announced by the end of the year, according to the DeWine release.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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