Worthington council delays decision on body-worn cameras for police

GARY SEMAN JR.
gseman@thisweeknews.com
This is one of the button-activated WatchGuard body cameras that all Whitehall Division of Police officers in uniform or on patrol have worn since July 2018. Worthington City Council is considering body-worn cameras for local officers, but chose July 20 to table discussion pending more information, dialogue and community input.

Worthington City Council has tabled discussion of body-worn cameras for the city’s police officers pending more information, dialogue and community input, according to leaders.

Council’s July 20 action essentially will extend the conversation until after the scheduled August recess.

Council member Beth Kowalczyk said “there are definitely a lot of questions about policy and use of cameras,” such as maintaining privacy for the public, cost for storage and the timelines when footage would be made available.

“The reviews are mixed in terms of minimizing police misconduct, and so if we’re looking to purchase these cameras, I want to understand exactly what the purpose will be for and what goals we’re trying to achieve,” Kowalczyk said.

Council members introduced legislation July 6 that would appropriate $55,000 from the Law Enforcement Trust Fund for the cameras. The fund includes money from the sale of contraband confiscated by the city and can be used for specific purposes, Robyn Stewart, assistant city manager, said previously.

Police Chief Robert Ware had said the cameras could be worn by 22 officers on patrol. Ware has said he and his staff support the use of body cameras.

The city had discussed the implementation of body-worn cameras for years, but the previous computer software wouldn’t support the upgrades, council President Bonnie Michael told ThisWeek previously.

It has since been updated, so council is giving the matter another look, she said.

Council member Scott Myers withheld his comments about body cameras but said for council to review and potentially approve a department policy is “out of the ordinary.”

“Typically, department policies would be within the ambit of the city manager and the department chief,” Myers said. “It is a very rare and exceptional circumstance that City Council would interact at the chief level on a matter of policy.”

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary