Whitehall police officers are expected to be equipped with body cameras by midsummer, according to Whitehall police Chief Mike Crispen.
It's a policy that was first discussed as early as 2015, Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard said, but became more relevant when the Columbus Division of Police began a body-camera program in late 2016.
Whitehall will use the same firm Columbus police uses for its body cameras, Maggard said.
Whitehall City Council unanimously adopted emergency legislation April 3 authorizing Maggard to purchase 43 body cameras from Watch Guard for $216,143.
The purchase will be made with revenue from the Law Enforcement Trust Fund.
"I believe body cameras are needed for transparency in our interaction with the public," said Maggard, adding that it will "build public trust" as well as better protect officers and the residents they serve.
Maggard said she first discussed such a policy with former Whitehall police Chief Richard Zitzke and the conversations continued with Crispen.
"The body-camera program has been in conversation (during) the (past) year," Crispen said.
The cameras have been tested and received "good reviews" from the officers who tried out the equipment, Crispen said.
"We believe (cameras) will help demonstrate the professionalism of (our) officers, provide a training tool for improving operations and help build trust between the community and police," Crispen said.
"Our goal is to have the (program) fully implemented by the end of July," he said.
The program will require an upgrade to existing in-cruiser camera systems and police will have access to "redaction software" that will allow the removal of images "that do not meet the public-records requirements."
Digital-storage capabilities also will be upgraded to allow videos from the body cameras to be saved, Crispen said.