Upper Arlington expects to equip police officers with body-worn cameras by year's end

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group
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. On May 10, Upper Arlington City Council unanimously approved a $282,992 contract with WatchGuard Video for the purchase of 45 body-worn cameras for officers and 18 cruiser cameras. Upper Arlington officers are expected to begin wearing the devices in the field by the end of this year.

Step by step, the Upper Arlington Police Division is moving toward implementation of body-worn cameras for patrol officers.

Later in June, the police division expects to finalize department policies for using body cameras, and officers are on pace to begin wearing them in the field by the end of this year.

On May 10, Upper Arlington City Council unanimously approved a $282,992 contract with WatchGuard Video for the purchase of 45 body-worn cameras for officers and 18 cruiser cameras.

Next, officer Bryan McKean said, will be the finalization of policies for how the cameras will be used by officers. Those guidelines are being developed through negotiations with Fraternal Order of Police Capital City Lodge No. 9, which brokers collective-bargaining agreements for the Upper Arlington officers.

"We anticipate completing the policy in June," McKean said. "We welcome the FOP’s input and will incorporate what we can.

"However, council tasks the chief of police to develop and approve the policy. In addition to the FOP, we have (and) will continue to work with the community and members of city council as this policy is finalized."

Body-worn cameras are becoming common among central Ohio law-enforcement agencies.

For example, officers in the cities of Columbus, Dublin, Groveport, Powell, Reynoldsburg, Westerville and Whitehall already wear them while on patrol, as do officers from Ohio State University and deputies in Delaware and Union counties. 

Additionally, the cities of Grandview Heights, Grove City, Hilliard and Worthington all are in the process of introducing the cameras for officers in the line of duty.

In Upper Arlington, McKean said, he expects the cameras will aid police work and enable residents to see how the department serves the community.  

"The video will certainly be another piece of critical evidence during investigations," McKean said. "The police division has a great longstanding relationship with the community. Body cameras will further enhance this trust and give others a chance to see how we operate."

Steve Schoeny is city manager of Upper Arlington.

City Manager Steve Schoeny said the city expects to launch a pilot program with the cameras by the end of this year, adding that officers won't have to activate the devices to capture video and audio of incidents to which they respond. 

"They're basically always on," he said. "The issue is, is there a trigger that leads to their retention for a longer period of time?"

Steve Farmer is chief of the Upper Arlington Police Division.

Prior to coming to Upper Arlington, police Chief Steve Farmer was involved in the implementation of body-worn cameras for Dublin police officers.

He said he has worked for two years to bring the cameras to Upper Arlington. 

"It gives us everything we would need to do all the right reporting, to get all the video ... to make sure we get the transparency that council is looking for," Farmer said.

According to McKean, the cameras will be used by "officers that have the greatest contact with the public."

Primarily, he said, that will be patrol officers and school resource officers. Officers working assignments with limited access to the public won't wear them, he said.

"There will be a 'pool' of cameras for officers to utilize," McKean said. "These will be for units that normally do not wear them but foresee greater interaction with the public on a given assignment.

"An example would be a plain-clothes officer who is assisting patrol."

Although some of the details still are being worked out to decide exactly how they'll be utilized, McKean said, the police division will follow city policy and state public records laws when it comes to releasing videos captured by the cameras.

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate