Costs keep local law enforcement from acquiring body cameras

Local News

TROY, Ohio (WDTN) – Finding support for police body cameras is easy. Activists with concerns about police brutality are demanding they become mandatory in the wake of George Floyd’s death, the Minneapolis man who died in May while being arrested by the police.

Police officers want them as well. Officers say they’re valuable for training purposes, for evidence gathering and for investigating false reports against police or brutality incidents by fellow officers.

The problem is finding funding. The Miami County Sheriff’s Office hosted a demonstration by Motorola Tuesday at its training facility in Troy. Representatives of Motorola’s Watchguard, which manufactures body and in-car cameras for law enforcement, demonstrated their latest product – a bodycam that has an easy-to-swap battery with 12 hours of recording ability and a lens that can capture 4K video.

Miami County Sheriff Dave Duchak said this is the second time in the last several years the department has considered acquiring body cameras. He’s hoping this time he can find the funding.

“I don’t know of any law enforcement officers who are against (them),” Duchak told WDTN.com. “It’s just been cost-prohibitive in the past.”

According to Watchguard representatives, their latest bodycam costs nearly $1,000. Extra batteries are around $100. That’s not including the costs of wiring cars for the new cameras, extra storage for the thousands of hours of videos the cameras capture, and other equipment like docking stations to charge the cameras. Redacting software, which departments use to protect citizen privacy and other concerns, costs $6,000 for one license.

WDTN.com asked several law enforcement agencies via email if they had body cams. Here’s a list of respondents and their answers. The only local departments that told 2 NEWS they currently have bodycams were the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and the Greene County Sheriff’s Office. Four departments are researching funding and cameras in hopes of finding money to purchase them. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office has requested funding for cameras in its 2021 budget.

DepartmentBody CamerasConsidering Bodycams
CentervilleNoResearching funding and cams
Clark CountyYes
DaytonNoNo current plans to acquire cams
Greene CountyYes
KetteringNoNot considering
Miami CountyNoResearching funds and cams
MiamisburgNoNot considering
Montgomery CountyNoRequesting for 2021 budget
OakwoodNoNot considering
Ohio State Highway PatrolNoResearching pricing and cameras
SpringfieldNoNot considering
Warren CountyNoNot considering
West CarrolltonNoResearching funds and cams

Springfield Police Chief Lee Graf said his department is waiting on potential funding from the state in any of its proposed law enforcement reform legislation.

“We are looking into them and are waiting to see what the Governor (Mike DeWine) comes back within his reform package,” Graf told WDTN.com in an email. “Cost is a big issue in this decision, but there are also a lot of logistical concerns as well as citizen privacy issues.”

The Ohio State Highway Patrol looked at bodycams several years ago, going as far as to test them. But the costs were too prohibitive and with most of OSHP’s duties being traffic stops, the agency decided to pass.

“We made the determination the dashcam was the best platform for our agency based on the technology available at that time,” OHSP Public Affairs Commander Craig Cvetan said in a statement. “Most contact troopers have with the public are in front of their car because of the nature of our operations.”

All of the local departments that responded to WDTN.com said they had in-car cameras, which include body mics. So if an officer is off camera from the cruisercam, they can still be heard on their microphone. Like Miami County, the Ohio State Patrol is looking at an integrated system that would have their cruisercam and a potential bodycam that would work as one package.

“We would need to equip approximately 1,000 marked patrol cars,” Cvetan said. “Due to the varying costs of the systems and the associated data storage options, it would be difficult to provide an accurate cost estimate at this point.”

The Ohio Assembly will be on recess until September. Most of the local police departments WDTN.com contacted hoped any reform bills would have funding for bodycams.

Duchak said the quote they received from Motorola following the demo was $131,000. This didn’t include more servers and storage, which the department would have to pay for. He’s not optimistic about funding help from the state.

“Columbus has been disappointing for (their) lack of support for local (law enforcement) for the past 10 years,” Duchak said. “So I am not counting on them for anything at this point other than more unfunded mandates.”

There are currently five police reform bills in the Ohio Statehouse including HB 703, sponsored by former Montgomery County Sheriff local State Rep Phil Plummer and former Cincinnati police officer Cindy Abrams.

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