| flickr, the commons

Cincinnati becomes latest city with police body-cams

The Cincinnati Police Department began the roll-out of a new body camera program to 40 officers on Wednesday. The department is just one of many throughout the country that are implementing body cameras as standard equipment for patrol officers.

“From our perspective, it’s just one tool that we have to engage with the community to show accountability and to build trust with the community,” said Tiffaney Hardy, director of communications for the Cincinnati Police Department.

The roll-out comes just days after Jawari Porter, 25, was shot and killed while he attacked on a Cincinnati police officer. On Aug. 7, Porter was killed after allegedly robbing a Kroger store in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. Store surveillance video shows him threatening a security officer with a knife before leaving the store. Police responded and spotted Porter a short time later on a street.   

“Our officer simply opened the door and was immediately attacked,” Hardy said. “The suspect was shot and killed in police custody. At that point there was a community outcry to have the body cam to show what had happened. If our officer had time to start the body camera it would have shown a complete picture of what happened.”

About 700 Cincinnati patrol officers are expected to have body cameras in place by the end of the year. A second-phase roll-out will reach an additional 350 officers.

“We feel that we have great officers here in our department," Hardy said, "but it’s a way to keep a record of that to be responsible to citizens, to the taxpayers, and as a way to have the best safety measures not only for our officers but also for our citizens.”

Other departments across the country are also working on equipping their officers with body cameras. The Norman Police Department in Oklahoma started a limited trial run of body cameras this month, as part of a plan to implement them department-wide by the end of the year.

The Clayton County Police Department in Georgia expects to deploy cameras within the next two months. The exact timeline depends on when they receive the cameras as well as new uniforms to accommodate the cameras.
Clayton County Police Department Public Information Officer Ashanti Marbury said the cost for the cameras and uniforms is about $200,000 and will be funded with a combination of seized drug money and grant funds.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced in May 2015, that it would provide $20 million in grants to help departments purchase and train in the use of body cameras.

“Our police chief thinks this is the wave of the future as more and more departments get these more and more officers will be wearing these,” Hardy said.

Purchasing and issuing the cameras is the end of a long process that includes developing a body camera policy.
“Our position is that police body cameras are neither inherently beneficial or harmful," said Chad Marlow of the Advocacy and Policy Council for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). "What determines that is the policies that govern their use. We are in favor of body cameras if they have the right policies governing them and we are very much opposed to them if they do not.”

The ACLU has developed a Model Policy for regulating the use of body cameras by law enforcement officers. 
Elements of the Model Policy include defined rules about when the cameras need to be turned on and off, public access to footage when it pertains to a use of force complaint or felony arrest, denial of public access when privacy issues are at stake, and a requirement for officers to fill out initial reports before viewing footage.

Several local law enforcement agencies have taken the ACLU model policy as a basis for their policy development, including the Parker Police Department and Commerce City Police Department in Colorado and the Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Office.

According to city documents, the Cincinnati Police Department's policy says that officers are required to activate their cameras during all law enforcement-related encounters.

Public requests to view video files must be submitted on a Form 29, Police Records Public Records Request. "Footage containing sensitive and/or private situations (e.g. interview of a victim of sexual assault; individual who is partially or completely unclothed) will be redacted."