Columbus Police to get new body cameras
The body cameras Columbus police officers wear will soon record automatically in some situations and feature better video and audio quality.
Over the next year, the city will buy and begin using 2,105 body-worn cameras, 450 in-car cameras equipped with license plate readers and 16 interview room systems. Over the course of the five-year, $19-million contract with Axon, the system will use an unlimited cloud-based technology to store the data, instead of using disks and drives to store the audio and video.
Mayor Andrew J. Ginther and the city’s Director of Public Safety Robert Clark called the technology replacing body-worn cameras from 2016 “next generation.”
“This next generation of body-worn cameras will improve our understanding of an encounter, and of each other when events unfold at lightning speed – sometimes in the midst of great chaos and confusion – and when a thorough and objective assessment is required to determine the facts,” said Mayor Ginther.
Clark said the cameras produce clearer and better-lit images, even when the lighting is poor.
“It surpasses what can be seen by the naked eye,” Clark said.
Assistant police Chief Greg Bodker said the department tested two different types of cameras with a limited number of officers for six weeks. He said the officers preferred the Axon cameras.
The cameras will turn on automatically whenever a gun is unholstered, or a rifle or shotgun is released in the cruiser. The cameras will also turn on automatically whenever a cruiser activates lights and sirens, accelerates quickly or is in a collision.
The body cameras and cruiser cameras will also activate automatically if another camera in the vicinity is activated.
Bodker said the new technology will “assist our officers in complying with the division’s body-worn camera directives and dramatically reduce the risk of operator error in emergency situations that require urgent decisions.”
Officers will also be required to turn on their body-worn cameras themselves during appropriate encounters with the public. The officers cannot delete or alter the videos collected on the cameras.
The cameras save audio and images for two minutes before activation and can recall video for hours after an incident.
The audio is also clearer, with four microphones.
Ginther said the terms were all negotiated in the latest labor contract with the police union.
Bodker said the cloud technology will make it easier to share videos with prosecutors and members of the public. He also said the cameras will assist in transparency and in collecting evidence.
Bodker said Nana Watson, president of the Columbus Branch of the NAACP, had a hand in moving the next selection of body-worn cameras forward. Watson was on the selection committee.
“The NAACP believes video technology in the form of body cameras and in-car cameras is a fundamental part of broader police reform, as well as a critical tool to hold law enforcement more accountable and ensure more transparency. We believe the greater the transparency, the greater the public trust,” Watson said.
The cameras improve safety for “both the public and the police,” Watson said.
All patrol officers will wear the cameras.