Body-worn cameras expected by fall for Upper Arlington police

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group

Upper Arlington police are expected to be outfitted with body-worn cameras no later than this fall, following negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police.

By the end of the month, the Upper Arlington Police Division plans to select a vendor to provide body cameras and add a records specialist to oversee images and sounds they capture, Chief Steve Farmer said.

For 2021, the city has budgeted approximately $285,000 for the body cameras and new cameras for UAPD cruisers.

Upper Arlington Police Chief Steve Farmer

Farmer hopes to have some cameras in use by summer so the entire process can be evaluated.

“We want to do a limited test of the hardware, test our policy, look at the public records function and make sure we have a well-oiled machine before we do a full implementation of the body-worn cameras in the fall,” Farmer told City Council on March 8.

Before police wear the cameras in the field, the city will finish its policy for their use, including when cameras will be activated or deactivated, as well as how videos can be used and shared.  

Farmer, who helped implement the Dublin Police Department’s use of body-worn cameras before becoming UAPD chief in January 2019, said his internal research team has discussed policies with several suburban police departments and the Columbus Police Division the help determine best practices.

More:Body-worn cameras likely one year away for Hilliard police

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

The standards the city adopts also will be the result of negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police Capital City Lodge No. 9, which brokers the collective-bargaining agreement for the UAPD’s officers.

“Those are the things that, when you look at the bargaining unit, that we have to discuss with them,” Farmer said. “We have to have those conversations with the bargaining unit before we bring those to the public out of courtesy, professional courtesy for them.”

The current contract between the city and its police officers expires at the end of this year.

City Manager Steve Schoeny said City Attorney Darren Schulman is in talks with the FOP about standards for UAPD's use of the cameras.

“There does need to be a consultative process with them,” Schoeny said. “Particularly heading into a contract negotiation, we want to be doing this.

“Frankly, as with any policy with members of your team, you want to make sure that you’re bringing them along and getting their input, as well.”

Farmer said the primary function of the cameras will be to collect evidence, and the video and audio the devices record will help “substantiate or exonerate someone in a complaint.”

He added the videos will be helpful in training officers how to respond to certain scenarios.

Schoeny said he believes law enforcement agencies throughout Ohio soon will be mandated to use body cameras and that they’re needed in Upper Arlington.

“Sometimes it feels to me that we’re operating on borrowed time before we have an incident that happens,” he said. “So, we’re trying to balance the desire to be thoughtful and consultative in those things with also the need to get this going.”

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate