The Columbus City Council, Mayor Andrew J. Ginther, and the Columbus Division of Police announced the first body worn cameras were deployed Wednesday, December 28, 2016 on 12 traffic officers.
This initial phase of deployment comes after a months-long development of policies and procedures, as well as the evaluation and selection of a vendor.
“Body worn cameras are an important tool to improve police-community relations, and I am confident that they will increase transparency and accountability for both the community and police. In fact, camera footage will not be limited solely to the courtroom but will also be largely available to the public through open records laws,” said Columbus City Council President Zach Klein.
A body worn camera committee composed of members of the community, academia, the Fraternal Order of Police and support staff from the Department of Safety was formed in September 2015. They studied research, engaged in public meetings and took testimony from body worn camera experts.
The committee issued a report in June 2016 which provided recommendations for policies, procedures and necessary changes in state law to implement a body worn camera program in Columbus, Ohio.
“Research shows body worn cameras are an important tool to enhance public safety and promote more positive interactions between the police and the community,” said Mayor Ginther. “I have said before that I wanted to do more than get it done; I wanted to get it right. I stand here confident we have accomplished that.”
At the same time as the committee developed policies, the City’s procurement experts led an intense vendor selection process. Six models from five different vendors were given to 30 officers for a test program beginning on August 30, 2016. Their input informed the city’s decision to select a vendor and enter into a contract with WatchGuard, a leader in the manufacturer of law enforcement video systems.
The City also worked with the Fraternal Order of Police to plan for implementation and assure new policies did not conflict with the Collective Bargaining agreement.
“The Columbus Division of Police is committed to being a progressive, trustworthy, and community-minded organization,” said Chief of Police Kim Jacobs. “Recording most of our daily interactions with community members is an excellent method to prove that commitment and to show the outstanding service and dedication of our law enforcement personnel.”
Phase I of the implementation includes the remainder of the Traffic Unit which is expected to be outfitted by the end of January 2017. Phase II, which consists of the Bicycle Unit, will begin once the installation of fiber optic communication infrastructure is completed at police substations, and it is expected to be complete by the end of May 2017.
“I am confident the technology and training we have provided our officers will help keep Columbus neighborhoods, and our officers, safe,” said Public Safety Director Ned Pettus, Jr. “While minor glitches might be expected even after all of our planning, vetting and testing, we have a thoughtful and deliberate implementation plan that will allow the Division to effectively deploy body worn cameras, make adjustments and continuously improve training as we place additional cameras in service.”