By Andrea Cordle
Grove City Editor
The Grove City Division of Police plans to purchase body-worn cameras this year.
According to William Vedra, the safety director for the city of Grove City, the department will buy 70 cameras for $125,000.
Vedra said the city had held off on purchasing the cameras because the data privacy rules coming from the state and federal government were “all over the board.” Now, he said, he is confident it is an accepted practice within police departments.
“More and more departments have them. I am comfortable with how they will be used,” said Vedra.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, body-worn cameras can be a highly effective resource, providing an audio and visual record of interactions that capture evidence in the event of a crime, police and citizen interaction, or a use-of-force incident. It is an effort to enhance transparency of police operations and ensure accountability.
Vedra said he hopes the body-worn cameras will increase confidence the Grove City community has in its officers.
“This will increase transparency in division practices and increase transparency all around,” he said.
The safety director said the cameras will not record continuously. It will be activated by the officer wearing it.
“The procedures are in development right now,” said Vedra.
Body-worn cameras do bring up privacy concerns for the public and the officers wearing the cameras. The cameras are likely to capture citizens in difficult, vulnerable, or embarrassing situations. The cameras may also capture images of children, innocent family members, or witnesses indirectly involved with an incident.
The city and the division of police will have to balance the need for transparency with respecting the privacy of victims.
“We will follow all of the existing laws,” said Vedra.
Much like traditional paper police reports, the images captured on police body-worn cameras will become public record. According to Vedra, the city and division of police will create a policy for releasing the camera footage to the public, if it is not part of an ongoing investigation. He said they would look into video redaction tools just like a paper copy would have sensitive information removed.
The body-worn cameras were part of the 2021 division of police budget. According to Vedra, the cost of $125,000 is primarily a one-time cost and will cover enough cameras for all the city’s officers. He said the city’s existing contract for data storage should cover the additional data and images that would be downloaded from the cameras.
Vedra said the body-worn cameras should be delivered and in use by the end of the year.