Grove City planning to purchase body cameras for police officers
Grove City Division of Police officers are expected to wear body cameras before the end of the year.
The 2021 budget City Council approved Dec. 7 includes $125,000 for the purchase of body-worn cameras.
The city will purchase enough cameras to equip each of its 52 officers, eight sergeants and three lieutenants with the equipment, deputy city administrator/safety director William Vedra said.
The actual cost of purchasing the cameras remains to be determined, and additional funding might be needed, he said.
"We are looking at a few different vendors," Vedra said. "We haven't determined which one we'll go with."
The goal is to have all officers equipped and using the cameras by the end of the year, he said.
"Providing our officers with body cameras will offer more transparency about how we are doing our job out in the community," Vedra said. "It's becoming a standard in law enforcement in 2021 – or will soon be."
"Now's a good time to be doing this given the current climate in the country," Mayor Richard "Ike" Stage said. "We thought we should move forward with this as a way to show we are committed to public transparency in our police department."
The body-camera footage will help provide evidence about what might have occurred in an encounter between an officer and a member of the public if a complaint is lodged, Vedra said.
The cameras that are in each police cruiser have a limited range and can't show what is occurring when an officer moves away from the vehicle or enters a building, he said.
Body-camera footage is public record in Ohio, with some exceptions, so the policy the department will develop will have to consider when officers should turn off their cameras to protect the privacy of victims or witnesses, Vedra said.
The city has discussed purchasing body cameras for at least a few years, Stage said, "but we have been on a wait-and-see pause."
"We've been waiting for the state to issue some clear guidelines and policy about body cameras," he said.
Those guidelines still haven't been provided, but the city will go ahead with its plan to purchase cameras and adjust its policy if needed once state guidelines are presented, Stage said.
Grove City's policy regarding how officers should use the cameras and when they shouldn't be turned on will be finalized before the equipment is issued to officers, Vedra said.
The officers also will undergo training on using the equipment and implementing the policy, Vedra said.
Grove City policy will follow the guidelines for body cameras set by the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies. The Grove City Division of Police has more than 15 years of accreditation through CALEA.
"Their standards for body cameras are even stronger than those set by the Ohio Collaborative," Vedra said.
The Ohio Collaborative is a 12-person panel that establishes statewide standards for law enforcement agencies.