Editorial: Urging officers to welcome use of body camera


A recent editorial by the Youngstown Vindicator:

We received the good news last week that both the Youngstown Police Department and the Ohio State Highway Patrol are finalizing plans in the purchase of officer body cameras.

We are pleased to see these new programs intended to help enhance transparency in law enforcement take shape.

City police will use about $1.2 million in American Rescue Plan funds to purchase 100 cameras and 150 Taser weapons. The federal relief funding also will cover the cost of video storage and their needed computer network equipment.

… In an unrelated move, the Ohio State Highway Patrol will pay $15 million over five years from its budget to arm all 1,500 troopers statewide with body cameras by next May. The new cameras also should strengthen police-community relations as many in communities large and small have appealed for body camera use for years now. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has supported the measure.

The $15 million also will fund distribution and installation of 1,221 in-car systems that will synchronize the new cameras with existing dashboard and rear-seat cameras in use by Ohio troopers for 20 years.

It seems that our elected officials, administrators and law enforcement leadership have welcomed the idea of body camera usage. Now, we can only hope that local police and highway patrol officers also welcome and embrace use of the cameras, treating them not with disdain or fear, but with eagerness to create more transparency for the public.

Frankly, it’s no secret that we are in an era where virtually anything can be caught on camera at any time. For that reason (and many others), we believe body camera usage is even increasingly more critical.

Videos captured in police-involved shootings or when use of force and aggression is displayed against officers have played pivotal roles in criminal and administrative investigations, as well as training scenarios. They should be welcomed as an effective tool to expose areas of concern in police work.

In announcing Ohio’s plan last week, DeWine described the cameras as “like an impartial, first-person account of every interaction with the public, every arrest and every traffic stop.”

We agree.

Body and cruiser cameras allow police agencies the ability to record their own unalterable evidence of often tumultuous scenarios as they unfold. Yes, potential exists to be overly scrutinized, but the recordings also provide a response if and when an officer has done his or her job correctly.

Indeed, that really is all anyone should demand and expect from the use of these cameras. …

Policies for recording, storage and public release have been spelled out. From where we sit, those types of policies always should be simple. Video footage gathered via police body or cruiser cameras should be guided by existing Ohio law. It should be considered as open and transparent as the letter of the law allows. We always would discourage police departments from developing overly restrictive policies for access to the recordings, and remind them that no local policy would trump the Ohio Revised Code… .

— Youngstown Vindicator, Dec. 5, 2021