BRUNSWICK HILLS, Ohio — One police department in Northeast Ohio is trying to increase transparency and keep better tabs on the interaction between its officers and the public.
"I want my officers at the highest level of integrity, honesty, professionalism," said Tim Sopkovich, Brunswick Hills Police Chief. Making sure that happens consistently is now a little easier.
"Cameras aren't new to law enforcement, but our cameras are," said Sopkovich.
All eight of his department's patrol units were just equipped with a new five-camera system.
"Either being good or bad, we want to make sure we record that," said Sopkovich.
In addition to traditional dash and body cams, the cruisers have a pair of side cameras and one on the back to see what's going on behind the vehicle.
During a mock arrest Wednesday morning, Chief Sopkovich demonstrated how the old way of recording interactions created blind spots, especially when an officer's camera is blocked by a person's body.
"You're really not capturing everything, but our front camera is. Not only is the front camera catching it, as you walk around the side, our side camera is picking up audio and video of them," added Sopkovich.
The fifth camera in the backseat keeps watch of those being transported.
"It's aided prosecution on the criminal side of things," said Sopkovich.
Chief Sopkovich saw the benefits of this multi-camera system while serving overseas years ago on a security detail in Iraq.
The new system is a huge upgrade from the outdated VHS system the department had when Sopkovich first started.
Sopkovich said the old system had "very slow frames-per-second and it was just that single dash."
As the behavior of more officers is called into question, departments like Brunswick Hills are adding additional cameras to make sure every angle is covered.
"Police initially were reluctant or resistant to the use of the cameras but now they're embracing them,” said Ronnie Dunn, the Chief Diversity Officer at CSU. He added that while the cameras can expose wrongdoing, they can also do the opposite.
"They've actually been found to vindicate police officers more frequently than one might have otherwise assumed," said Dunn.
Chief Sopkovich is not waiting for a big incident to pull up videos. He conducts random checks to help maintain trust with his community.
"Just to make sure that the officers are compliant with our policies and what I expect them to do out there and what the public expects of them," said Sopkovich.
The cameras cost the Brunswick Hills Police Department $47,000. A levy recently approved by taxpayers helped offset most of the expense.
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