County to purchase body worn cameras for deputies

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The Franklin County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a contract to acquire body cameras for each of the county’s 565 certified deputy sheriffs and a policy that will govern their use. The contract is for just over $2.5 million with WatchGuard Video, and the money to procure the cameras is being made available from the county’s general fund.

Deputies will wear the cameras at all times while on duty (including while in civilian clothes unless undercover) except for a few designated times such as when in the county’s jail facilities. The cameras are to be activated at all times during law enforcement activities such as when responding to calls for service, interacting with residents, and traffic or pedestrian stops. The cameras are also equipped with a lookback feature that will capture video and audio even prior to being activated so that they will record events that occur suddenly or before the deputy had a chance to activate the camera.

“Nothing is more important to the operation of a fair and effective criminal justice system than the belief in the community that officers are held to a high standard and that the law is enforced equally,” said commissioner John O’Grady. “These cameras will help us reinforce that mutual trust and respect between deputies and our residents.”

The cameras are the Motorola Watchguard V300 model with a 4K video sensor, 1080p resolution, dual microphones, and built-in WiFi and GPS. Body camera footage will be stored according to the county’s regular record retention policy and is subject to Ohio public records law. The videos can be made available to the public upon request according to a process, which requires consultation among the sheriff, prosecutor’s office and board of commissioners to ensure that public records law is followed.

“As with a lot of things, the devil is in the details when it comes to how these cameras are employed, when videos are to be redacted or released, and how our deputies are expected to use them,” said commissioner Kevin Boyce. “We’ve worked hard with the sheriff’s office and county prosecutor to carefully craft a policy that I think protects the privacy of residents and deputies and will ensure transparency about the cameras, recordings, and how they will be used or made public.”

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office has jurisdiction in the entirety of Franklin County, including patrolling 261 miles of road and operating the county’s jail facilities. The agency fields 565 certified law enforcement deputies, as well as 195 corrections deputies and about 340 civilian employees.

“The sheriff’s office is grateful to the Franklin County Board of Commissioners for supporting body worn cameras,” said Sheriff Dallas Baldwin. “I have strongly advocated for cameras because I believe they provide transparency and ensure accountability. In our effort to build a bridge of trust between law enforcement and the community, this is an important step forward.”

The county will hold public town hall meetings later this year to introduce the cameras to the public, demonstrate their use, and answer questions about the polices that govern them.

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