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Euclid police body camera system to go online soon as Ohio seeks to spread additional grant money

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Posted at 10:28 AM, Feb 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-23 18:49:58-05

EUCLID, Ohio — Thanks in part to a grant from the state, the Euclid Police Department is set to implement a department-wide body worn camera system in the spring. Although officials said the city was going to move forward with the $450,000 endeavor regardless of whether Euclid would receive state assistance, the state grant totaling $120,000 will allow city officials to use that money elsewhere.

Gov. Mike DeWine made a stop in Euclid Wednesday to discuss the state grants that have allowed smaller suburban departments like Euclid launch or upgrade body camera systems for their respective departments. Although body cameras are still relatively new, the general public has come to expect officers to be outfitted with them, despite the substantial investment required.

"More and more police departments have wanted to use [body cameras] but they basically raised their hand and said, 'we want to use it but we can’t afford it,'" Gov. DeWine said. "I think it protects the police and I think it protects the public to have body cameras. This is a question of transparency. We now have the technology to have body cameras and quite frankly the public expects body cameras today."

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In January, DeWine announced a total of $4.7 million in grant funding was awarded to 109 agencies. Of those, 49 departments will purchase body camera systems for the first time, while the remainder will expand on current programs. Around 1,700 new cameras will be purchased with grant money, along with the computer software, equipment and storage solutions needed to run and maintain the devices, according to state officials. The grants total around $10 million dollars. The rest of the funding will be paid out in fiscal year 2023.

The sheer volume of video recorded by any given department on any given day means that it requires a sizable investment for a city to adopt a body camera program. In addition to storing and retaining the data long enough to be compliant with state public records laws, there are also administrative costs associated with fulfilling public records requests and performing the necessary redactions.

Currently, body cameras are not mandated in Ohio. State officials said the grant is prioritized for departments that don't have a body camera program yet.

As part of its body camera system, Euclid's uniformed patrol officers will be required by department policy to wear and use the body cameras, which will be treated as a part of an officer's uniform. Before city council approved the nearly half-million dollar expense, Euclid's officers were given the option to purchase their own body cameras. After extensive testing, Euclid opted for Motorola's "WatchGuard" body camera system, which seamlessly ties into the department's other digital infrastructure, officials said.

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"Police departments across the nation — certainly here in Euclid — are trying to do two things simultaneously: We’re always looking to build trust and relationships with our communities but we’re also tasked with this violent crime," said Euclid Police Chief Scott Meyer. "These kinds of initiatives and this kind of funding and support really means a lot."

As part of Euclid's system, officers will be able to "dock" and charge their body cameras without leaving their patrol cars. Earlier body camera systems required officers to travel to a designated place to ingest their body camera recordings — a labor and time-intensive process, especially at shift-change.

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As a condition of receiving the grant, departments are required to be compliant with the Ohio Community Police Collaborative's body worn camera standard.

"It’s a protection for officers but also the transparency for the community," said Maple Heights Police Chief Todd Hansen. "In addition to that, the courts have gotten to the point where any of the cases that we have need to be adjudicated, it’s only successful through body camera footage. [People] expect it and they want to see it.

The Ohio Body-Worn Camera Grant Program was passed by the state general assembly in June. It comes out of Ohio's 2022-2023 operating budget and is aimed at assisting police departments with the costs relating to the camera units, video storage and public record management personnel and other expenses. The Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) is administering the grant program. The OCJS received $16 million worth of grant requests for this round of funding, officials said. Agencies that applied and qualified for grant money but not selected are expected to be receive funding through future grants at a later date.

Below is a complete list of departments that were awarded funds for a body-worn camera program:

RELATED: Euclid Police Department receives state grant to cover the cost of department-wide body cameras

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