Worthington considering body-worn cameras for police

GARY SEMAN JR.
gseman@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

Worthington City Council on Monday, July 20, will continue its discussion of spending $55,000 for body-worn cameras for police officers after legislation for the appropriation was introduced July 6.

Council President Bonnie Michael said the city had been looking at the purchase of camera equipment, but Worthington Division of Police software couldn't accommodate it.

But the software has been updated, necessitating a fresh look at the issue, Michael said.

"We've had a number of citizens and police officers ask for them," she said. "Basically, it increases the transparency and accountability in interactions with citizens and police."

Asked if the recurring Black Lives Matter protests at High Street and Dublin-Granville Road played any part in potential acquisition of body cameras, Michael said: "I think it might have given us the impetus to do it sooner rather than later."

The virtual meeting is slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. July 20. Viewers can watch the meeting at worthington.org/live.

The money to pay for the cameras would come from the Law Enforcement Trust Fund, which receives money from the sale of contraband confiscated by the city and can be used for specific purposes, said Robyn Stewart, assistant city manager.

Police Chief Robert Ware said the cameras could be worn by 22 officers on patrol.

Ware said he and his staff support the use of body cameras.

"Early studies that were conducted indicated that the behaviors of police and (citizens) improved when cameras are present," Ware said. "And it reduces complaints against officers."

Ware referenced an article by the National Institute of Justice, which completed a comprehensive study on the issue. The report, published in January 2019, indicated, in part, that "body-worn cameras may lead to a faster resolution of citizen complaints and lawsuits that allege excessive use of force and other forms of officer misconduct.

"Investigations of cases that involve inconsistent accounts of the encounter from officers and citizens are often found to be 'not sustained' and are subsequently closed when there is no video footage nor independent or corroborating witnesses."

"They might not decrease the use of force," Ware said. "I think typically when force is used by law enforcement, I think it's necessary."

The technology is quite revealing, he said, as the cameras record interactions with the public from six or seven different angles.

Ware said he hopes City Council will adopt flexible policies that acknowledge best practices in the industry and that are in line with what's been accepted by the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

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