By JÃ©rÃ©my Pelzer
COLUMBUS, Ohio â All 1,500 Ohio Highway Patrol soldiers on patrol will be equipped with body cameras by next May, Governor Mike DeWine and state law enforcement officials said Tuesday. .
Camera systems are also installed in more than 1,200 highway patrol cars, so every time soldiers turn on their lights and sirens, their body cameras will automatically start recording – as will two additional cameras mounted on the control panel. edge and in the backseat, officials said during a protest at the Highway Patrol Training Academy in Columbus.
Highway Patrol will pay $ 15 million over the next five years from its operating budget to purchase and install the cameras, as well as to purchase data storage and other operational costs, according to a press release from the office of DeWine.
As part of the Ohio State Highway Patrol camera system, all three cameras, when activated, will remain on until the traffic stop is over and the soldier turns them off via a tablet computer. in the car, according to Lt. Nathan Dennis, a spokesman for the highway patrol. . The cameras will continue to record for some time even after the soldier turns them off.
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While an incident is still ongoing, soldiers will only be allowed to turn off their body cameras for short periods of time, such as during administrative conversations or when soldiers use the toilet, according to highway patrol officials. Before turning off body cameras in such situations, each soldier will have to say out loud why they are turning off their camera, which records both video and audio.
Columbus District state soldiers will be the first to receive body cameras by November 2021, followed by eight more highway patrol districts and highway patrol headquarters, according to a statement from DeWine. The Cleveland Highway Patrol District is expected to have body cameras by February 2022.
Patrol officials say highway patrollers will not have to carry cameras if they are working from a desk or performing tasks that are not in the field.
DeWine, a Greene County Republican, first called for state soldiers to be fitted with body cameras more than a year ago, as part of a package of police reforms he proposed following the mass protests that followed the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
The governor, at a press conference at the patrol training academy, said body cameras “will be an important tool in community-police relations.”
“They will build public confidence and give our citizens yet another reason to be confident in the professionalism of the Ohio Highway Patrol,” DeWine said, adding that the body cameras will also help provide detailed documentation of the scenes. accident and crime and to provide evidence against drunk drivers and drug traffickers.
Body cameras, in general, enjoy wide support from both law enforcement officers (for such reasons as they protect officers from frivolous accusations) and members of the public (many of whom believe police officers cameras deter and document police misconduct). Research has indicated that police departments that use body cameras have seen a reduction in both the use of force by police and allegations of misconduct against officers.
“We don’t hesitate to be transparent with the public,” said Colonel Richard S. Fambro, Superintendent of the Highway Patrol. “This is how we build public trust with the communities we serve throughout the state of Ohio.”
State soldiers have been using dash cameras for years. Fambro said the deployment of body cameras is an “improvement” on the existing system.
Ohio is not one of the seven states that currently require all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras in the field. DeWine’s office estimated in September that up to two-thirds of all law enforcement agencies in the state – mostly smaller agencies – lack body cameras due to the price of the equipment and video storage.
But DeWine also noted on Tuesday that the current state budget provided for a total of $ 10 million in grants to local police departments to purchase body cameras and pay related expenses.
There have been a large number of requests for this grant, DeWine said, indicating that there is a “desire” by law enforcement to obtain cameras for their agents. The first round of grant recipients will be announced by the end of the year, according to the DeWine statement.
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