By Bob Sandrick
BROADVIEW HEIGHTS, Ohio — The city for the first time will buy body cameras for police, under legislation City Council unanimously approved Monday night (April 19).
“As a nation, we are moving in that direction, especially as more funding and technology becomes available,” Councilwoman Jennifer Mahnic said Tuesday (April 20) regarding the new body camera system. “It’s great for police officers.”
Police Chief Steven Raiff said obtaining body cameras for officers was one of his first priorities after he was promoted from lieutenant to chief in March 2020.
“It’s long overdue,” Raiff said in a Tuesday email. “Many agencies around us already have body cameras and dash cams. More and more people feel the need to film officers with their cell phones, be it on a traffic stop or other in-person contacts.
“Body cameras will ensure I have the whole interaction with people on video, protecting both my officers and the public,” Raiff said.
Strongsville originally was going to buy its cameras from Utility, but ended up purchasing them from Anixer in Glenview, Ill. — although just weeks ago the city obtained additional cameras, this time from Utility. North Royalton bought all of its body cameras from Utility.
Both Strongsville and North Royalton also bought dashboard cameras as part of their body-camera purchases, with Strongsville replacing old dashboard cameras and North Royalton obtaining dashboard cameras for the first time.
Raiff said Broadview Heights doesn’t have dashboard cameras now and will not purchase them as part of the body camera agreement with Utility.
“If (dashboard cameras) can be worked into the budget in the future, I am not opposed to them, but I want to see how the body cameras work out first,” Raiff said.
“I felt body cameras were a better option first, as they can not only record interactions with the public on traffic stops, but also any other time we come into contact with people when we are out of our cruisers,” Raiff said.
Raiff said he hopes to have the body cameras installed and operating within the next few months.
Like Strongsville and North Royalton, Broadview Heights will obtain the BodyWorn brand of body cameras, which are installed inside officer uniforms, so they can’t be knocked off.
BodyWorn cameras have GPS locators that automatically send an alert if turned to a horizontal position, indicating that an officer is down. Thanks to the GPS feature, dispatchers and other officers receiving the alert will know the downed officer’s location; the system will even provide directions to that location.
According to a letter Utility sent to Raiff, officers can also use body cameras to send be-on-the-lookout alerts, photos and voice communications.
Police can activate the cameras to start recording when an officer removes his or her weapon from the holster, when an officer is running or when a call for service is received.
Raiff said Broadview Heights police still need to decide how the cameras will be used and when they will be activated in the field.
“We have never had a need for a body-worn camera policy and will now begin working on one,” Raiff said.