Grandview Division of Police: Officers will wear body cameras sometime in 2021

Alan Froman
ThisWeek group

Grandview Heights Division of Police officers will add another component to their uniforms later this year.

Officers will be outfitted with body cameras, police Chief Ryan Starns said.

City Council on Dec. 21 approved a $65,200 expenditure to purchase the body cameras as part of the 2021 capital-improvements budget.

Grandview Heights Division of Police cruiser

Although the funds have been appropriated, the purchase still must be authorized by the city's board of control, Starns said. The specific model of body camera that will be purchased also is undetermined.

"We're looking to get that issue before the board of control in the next month or two and, hopefully, have the equipment in hand by April," he said.

One body camera will be purchased for each of the department's officers, Starns said. Grandview currently has 19 police officers, with a 20th position to be filled later this year.

Purchasing body cameras was a priority for Starns even before he was appointed police chief in March 2020. Prior to that, Starns led the department's detectives bureau.

"Using body cameras will help increase the transparency, accountability and trust in our department," he said. "It's also something that will help encourage good behavior from our officers, although we're proud of the standard they already set."

In 2019, one complaint regarding an officer's performance in the field was submitted through the complaint/compliment form on the city's website, Starns said.

That complaint was found to be without merit, he said.

The body cameras will provide a record of police officers' encounters with the public and are expected to help in determining the validity of a complaint filed against an officer, Starns said.

The cameras also will "serve as another tool in the toolbox" officers can use as they investigate crimes, he said.

The camera footage would provide a permanent record that officers would be able to review as part of their investigation, Starns said.

The cameras will be attached to the vest that each officer wears in the field, he said.

"We have three cameras installed in each cruiser, but they have a limited range of vision, and the mics only pick up the sound up to a certain distance," Starns said. "The body camera can be used if the officer is required to move away from the in-dash cameras' view or if they are required to enter a building on a call."

The body cameras will not be in operation at all times, he said. Officers will need to turn them on to begin recording their activity.

Starns said he is working to develop a policy setting situations when officers would not use the cameras.

"In the course of an investigation when we enter a home, there may be some sensitive details about a victim that they and we would not want to be recorded by the camera," he said.

House Bill 425, which took effect in April 2019, directed the police body-camera recordings in Ohio to become public records, with some exceptions for personal privacy issues, Starns said.

"I will be going through to make sure our policy complies with all the standards for body-worn cameras set by the Ohio Collaborative," he said.

The Ohio Collaborative is a 12-person panel that establishes statewide standards for law-enforcement agencies, Starns said.

Starns' advocacy for the city to purchase the body-worn camera for police officers reflects his commitment to transparency and accountability for the police department, Mayor Greta Kearns said.

"We emphasize quality service here, and we want our police force to have the tools to do their jobs in the best way possible," she said.

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