EUCLID, Ohio — Governor Mike DeWine’s office awarded nearly 5 million dollars in grant funds to police departments throughout the state. The Euclid Police Department is a recipient of $120,000 of those funds.
Right now, Euclid police have an optional body camera policy. Officers have to buy the cameras on their own, a price that can average out to about $1,000.
Out of the about 90 staff members within the department, only about a dozen have body cameras.
“Officers don’t want to be forced into such a large expense on their own part. They are quite expensive and the maintenance and the storage fees are expensive, but the city decided they’d make it a priority and they’d fund this new project,” said Capt. Mitch Houser.
Houser said, by and large, body cameras are something the officers support.
In September of 2021, the Euclid City Council approved the purchasing of body cameras and updating dash cameras for the entire department. It’s a project that would cost more than $400,000.
Mayor Kirsten Holzheimer Gail said the grant money they received from the governor’s office will ease the financial burden.
“The city has been committed to safety and improving our police department and making sure our city has the best tools available, that we are using the best technology that is available,” said Gail. “From the police department, from city council, from the administration, we were committed to do it. It would’ve meant making tougher decisions, now we can use those funds to do something else that will have a positive impact on improving safety.”
The call for body cameras is something residents have asked for in the past. The Euclid Police Department has come under scrutiny for past incidents, cases where citizens who interacted with police claimed there was excessive use of force. In some of those cases, the city paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements.
Shajuan Gray is one of the citizens who filed a lawsuit against the city.
“It’s surreal to finally hear that Euclid has gotten body cams,” she said.
In 2017 Gray was in the shower at her Euclid apartment when an officer came to the door for a noise complaint. Gray cracked the door to ask what was going on and she said that’s when the officer barged through, assaulted her and dragged her out of her home in only her bath towel.
“Five cars was called for me. One officer had on a body camera and thank God for him. He was actually my savior in the mess that I was entwined in with his partner, his coworker, and if it wasn’t for his bodycam I probably would’ve lost my case,” she said. “I was asking for clothing, to put clothing on, and the bodycam showed that.”
The lawsuit was settled in February 2020.
“It is necessary. They should be filming everything that happens to citizens. It protects them. It protects the citizens,” said Gray.
Houser also said that the bodycams are a win-win for the community.
“The camera has its limitations. It only sees what it sees. It doesn’t necessarily see the same thing the officer does because the officers head could be turned away from it, but in general, these are fantastic tools for collecting evidence and that makes our jobs for law enforcement officers easier,” he said. “It also helps the officers out against accusations of their misconduct. It can show, and often cases are very clear, that an allegation is unfounded. Again, in the end it provides the sense of transparency the public demands and the public deserves.”
Gail said body cameras should be implemented and on officers by April. She hopes it will make the city of Euclid stronger.
“Our officers work so hard every day, not only responding to calls but building community trust. The cameras will be a tool to help them, they’ll be a tool to help the community and, certainly, a tool to help with that transparency and that accountability to build strong community relations.”
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