Mar 23, 2022 - News

Columbus invests $19 million for upgraded police body cameras

Illustration of a police hat with a badge shaped like a video camera icon.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The body camera equipment used by Columbus police officers is getting a major upgrade this year.

Why it matters: These cameras assist law enforcement with investigations while providing transparency of officers' actions.

  • Columbus officers, except those working undercover, are required to activate cameras while responding to incidents.

What they're saying: "In today's technological age of law enforcement, body cameras are as essential to an officer as their badge and gun," said director of public safety Robert Clark, who joined Mayor Andrew Ginther and assistant chief Greg Bodker in a press conference announcing the equipment upgrades yesterday.

  • Separately, NAACP Columbus president Nana Watson said in supporting the announcement: "We believe the greater the transparency, the greater the public trust."

By the numbers: The city is investing $19 million to purchase more than 2,500 cameras to be used by officers, SWAT teams, police cruisers and inside interview rooms.

  • Training will start this summer and officers will be fully equipped by next spring, Ginther said.

Details: Besides better video and audio recorders, top features of the new equipment include:

  • Automated activation — Cameras will automatically start recording when triggered by police actions such as turning on a cruiser's siren or removing a service weapon from its holster.
  • Longer "lookback" function — Cameras can display up to two minutes of audio and video prior to having been activated.
    • This would have greatly impacted the investigation into the fatal 2020 police shooting of Andre Hill in a Columbus garage.
    • Officer Adam Coy activated his camera only after shooting Hill. The equipment's lookback feature ended up showing the encounter without any audio.
  • Synchronized videos — Activating one camera will automatically activate all others nearby. Investigators can later review an incident with synchronized feeds from multiple angles.
  • Better records management — A new cloud-based system will replace thumb drives and CDs, speeding up investigations and fielding public record's requests.

The big picture: Ohio issued grant funding in January for more than 100 law enforcement agencies to launch or maintain body camera systems, including the Franklin County Sheriff's Office.

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