VANDALIA — In a nation that has seen the divide between police and the public grow, body cameras worn by police have emerged as an important protection for both the public and police.
That is one of the driving forces behind the decision to deploy the cameras by the Vandalia Division of Police.
“This is the national trend,” said Vandalia Division of Police Lt. Dan Swafford. “With everything that’s going on many people ask why isn’t there a camera.”
Swafford said the cameras can also prove to be a valuable training tool.
“Accountability of the officers is important both internally and to the public,” said Swafford. “These will help with transparency to the public so they can see what we are doing. We aren’t here to hide anything.”
Swafford said the cameras will come on automatically whenever the lights of the police cruiser are flipped on or if the car travels over 80 miles per hour. The camera can also be triggered manually by the officer. The cameras are also synchronized with the vehicle’s dashboard camera systems.
“The idea is that if it triggers one, it triggers them all,” said Vandalia Information Technology Manager.
It is possible that officers could forget to turn the camera on if none of the automatic triggers start it, but Swafford said officers are expected to record most calls they are dispatched on.
“We’ve told them to turn it on as soon as they get the call,” he said. “Is there a chance that could happen or something that happens during the call could turn it off? That is possible, but for the most part they should have them on from the beginning of a call. I’ve told the guys that I can’t defend them if they don’t have it on.”
The video recorded is, in most cases, subject to Ohio’s Sunshine Laws. Exceptions include if the video is actively being used for investigative purposes by law enforcement or prosecutors.
Video can be held anywhere from one year for traffic violations or field interrogations, six years for felony offenses, to permanently for law enforcement shootings. Other recordings can be held as few as 10 days.
Swafford said officers will, whenever possible, notify subjects that they are recording.
The cameras, along with software and storage, cost $53,000 and Swafford said the investment is well worth it.
“The whole reason we got them is they show what we are doing out there, it gives more transparency to the public and increases our accountability, and they will provide great pieces of evidence,” he said.
Reach Darrell Wacker at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.
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