All uniformed Springfield Police Division officers will be equipped with body-worn cameras this year after a decision by city leaders.
Springfield City Manager Bryan Heck explained that the state of Ohio, through their body worn camera program, is contributing $166,220 toward the purchase, and the city will cover the $219,602 balance.
The total cost for purchase of the new technology, approved by Springfield city commissioners Tuesday night, is $385,822.
“It’s a big cost,” Heck said. “We’re certainly glad we are able to obtain state funding for a portion, but it’s important for us to advance forward with this program.”
He said officials considered a smaller or pilot program using just the state funds, “but at the end of the day, working with our Community Police Advisory Team and other community groups, we decided to move full force ahead with our body worn camera program.”
Police Chief Allison Elliott said the department first started the state grant process two years ago and has amended the application during the process to gain approval. The department is purchasing 115 body worn cameras and all the accessories from Motorola Solutions needed for appropriate use.
“We are still working through the policies and procedures because we want to be mindful and transparent to our community and our division,” she said.
Elliott indicated the Community Police Advisory Team has been involved in the process, which began before the grant application was submitted.
“We are part of Ohio Collaborative Community Police Advisory Board and part of that involves a body cam policy,” the chief said. “So we began preparing for this some time ago, and it has been a very mindful thought process.”
Heck said police and city officials will continue to work with the Community Police Advisory Team up to actual deployment of the new hardware. Commissioner David Estrop pointed out that meetings of the group are open to the public for public comment, enabling additional public input.
The addition of the technology to police use will still require several months of preparation. In addition to finalizing policies and procedures, officers will need to be trained on the new equipment.
Heck noted the new body cameras are compatible with existing squad in-car camera system introduced last year.
Commissioner Krystal Phillips asked about costs associated with sustaining the new system.
Heck confirmed ongoing costs will be associated with the new system, including personnel, maintenance, software and the hosting.
“As you can imagine, video creates pretty large files and requires a lot of storage, so we will use cloud-based servers to help mitigate those costs,” Heck said. “There will be additional costs reflected in the 2024 budget when presented.”
Community members, including Springfield NAACP President Denise Williams, have asked for body cameras for several years. Williams has said cameras protect police officers and the community.
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office has worn body cameras for seven years.
Speaking before the commission, Community Police Advisory Team member Otis Williams endorsed purchase of the cameras, saying it would be good for the city.
He also raised a question about proposed surveillance cameras he said community members have asked him about.
Heck said the community surveillance system will help with identifying “hot spots” in the community to be monitored for criminal activity, especially violent crime.
Heck said the cameras have not arrived yet.
“The idea around that is to be able to strategically place cameras in areas of high crime as we look to reduce, specifically, the violent crime that we are seeing in our community,” he said.
Heck added that when fully implemented, 35 surveillance cameras will be available for placement.
“As we get closer to deployment, we will be working with the Police Advisory Team to review maps so that we can place them in areas to protect and serve our residents in the neighborhoods where these crimes are occurring,” he said.
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