MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Ohio (WDTN) – The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office is in the process of equipping hundreds of deputies with body cameras, but for now, all road patrol deputies and jail personnel are using them.
Next week deputies on security duties will be equipped as well.
Sheriff Rob Streck says he wishes body camera video was available for every critical incident in his 26 year career on the force. He says the transparency that will come from these cameras will be good, not just for the community, but also for his deputies.
“My deputies feel the same way as the public does: in this day and age they like having video footage of what they’re doing,” said Streck.
The sheriff’s office is in the process of implementing more than 200 body cameras, a massive technical undertaking. The county paid $655,000 for the equipment, software and cameras. Streck said there was no pushback from the deputies or the union.
“We’ve been in critical incidents even over the last couple of years, where we would have loved to have body cams on the deputies.”
Streck says the body cam policy is simple: “If you are dispatched somewhere or if you do something self-initiated, then that camera should be on.” Stopping for a bite to eat or basic conversations with the public do not require turning the camera on, but deputies can choose to turn it on anytime they want. Sheriff Streck says, “We want them comfortable with them and we want them to use them whenever they can.”
Thaddeus Hoffmeister, professor of law at the University of Dayton, says, “It’s a win-win, not only for law enforcement, but the public as a whole.”
The Dayton unit NAACP has been calling for these cameras since George Floyd was killed last May. President Dr. Derrick Foward has worked in partnership with the sheriff, getting regular updates on the progress. He says, “Everybody will have an opportunity to see for themselves if the interaction was appropriate on behalf of the citizens or the sheriff’s deputies.”
WATCH an attorney and the NAACP weigh in on how the new body cameras could provide more transparency:
Now Foward says the Derek Chauvin case illustrates the importance of video accountability. “The prosecutor opened his argument and closed his argument with “believe what your eyes see.”
Right now the only place body cameras will not be worn is in court, where rules are more strict to protect witness privacy and case integrity.
Hoffmeister says body cameras will also help the overwhelming number of good officers. “That body cam helps provide that additional oversight that benefits the citizens, and benefit the other 95% who do their job spectacularly, but nonetheless are subject to unnecessary complaints or litigations.”
The cameras also have microphones to capture audio, and they store up to 60 hours of video. Each day the video is automatically downloaded at a docking station. There are several classifications for videos which determine how long they are saved, including: felony arrest, misdemeanor arrest, self-initiated activity and traffic stops.
“We want to do what the community wants, and we want to protect our employees. This does both those things,” said Streck.
Because deputies are still getting used to the new protocol and the cameras themselves, there are no punishments right now for not turning on the cameras. There will be eventually, but Sheriff Streck says so far no one has forgotten to turn them on.