WOSU | By Debbie Holmes
Published June 28, 2021 at 5:00 AM EDT
The northeast side suburb of Gahanna is joining Columbus and other police departments in equipping their police officers with body cameras. Gahanna Police Chief Jeff Spence said officers are ready.
“Our officers really want these cameras as quickly as possible,” Spence said.
The chief said money from a recent income tax increase in Gahanna provided the funding for the body cameras for 56 officers in his department.
“This is a $160,000 upgrade over three years. Again, this is a system that we have in place with our in-car cameras, so we’re essentially just rolling out the body worn component so we’re able to do it at a reduced cost,” Spence says.
The camera will be inserted into a vest with the lens exposed for recordings, Spence said. A detached device that looks like a watch can be worn to operate the camera. Although there are limitations, he said.
“It doesn’t show the entire view,” Spence said. “It doesn’t show the peripheral vision of an officer, sights, smells and small movements.”
Spence said he believes the value of the body cameras outweigh any negative points.
“Body cameras increase officer accountability,” the chief said. “I think they provide valuable evidence. We’re going to automate as many processes as we can so it takes the guess work out of the officer when to activate them.”
Officers not activating body cameras issues has been an issue in some police-involved incidents, including the December Columbus police shooting of Andre Hill. Hill, who was Black, was killed by white officer Adam Coy, who didn’t activate his body camera at the beginning of his interaction with Hill. That meant the first 60 seconds of footage, which included the shooting of Hill, did not include audio.
After years of resistance by police unions in Central Ohio and around the country, more departments are adopting the devices as a way to increase officer oversight. Columbus started equipping officers with cameras in 2016, while the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office just outfitted deputies with cameras this year following the fatal shooting of Casey Goodson, Jr.
Spence said there will be further costs to use the body cameras.
“Public records requests, the need to manage all of that video and then subsequently provide it either in forms of discovery for court cases or public records requests, that’s where the real cost comes in,” he said.