Grandview Mayor candidate questions – Police body cam policy

Published October 13, 2019 by justicewg
police body cam

(Update – Kearns won the Nov 5th mayoral race.)

The recent incident with the spiked baseball bat wielding attacker ended with a reported wound to the hand of one of Grandview Height’s police officers. The four officers who were at the scene showed great restraint in their reaction to a suspect who was using a deadly weapon.

Although there was a dash cam showing the outside of the home, there were no body cams on the officers inside the house. If the choice made by the officers were different, and a gun was used to defend the officers, there would have been no video record of the attack. The headlines in the local papers might have been “Grandview police shoot mentally ill man wanted for a traffic violation, in his own home, no cameras were worn.”

Many local police departments now use body cams. In 2015, then Columbus Council president Andrew Ginther proposed the roll-out of body cameras. The department completed its deployment in 2018, and 1,400 officers now wear the cameras.

Whitehall became first Franklin County suburb to equip officers with body cameras in 2018. Westerville and Dublin will have all officers equipped with cams by the end of 2019. Bexley, Grove City, and Reynoldsburg have all tested cameras recently.

(edit – Reynoldsburg was late to answer my question, they now have body cams for all police officers)

My questions for the candidates – should Grandview Heights police now be using body cameras? Are you in favor of at least a test program?

Steve Reynolds – answered in one day.

First, I would echo your comments that GHPD officers showed remarkable restraint and should be applauded for their very professional response. It is my understanding the injured officer sustained multiple bone fractures in his hand and had one of his knuckles impaled by a nail. He may require multiple corrective surgeries and faces months of recovery. I certainly wish him a speedy and complete recovery.

As to the appropriateness of body cams, the department had looked into purchasing them a year or two back, but decided to hold off until implementation in other Central Ohio departments could be observed. While it may sound like a simple program to put in place, there are numerous details and considerations which come into play. The Chief could explain these with a higher level of expertise than I can, but I’ll provide a summary based upon my discussions with him and other law enforcement officers.

In addition to the initial cost of equipment, a substantial amount of expense and labor can be incurred in administering to such a program. Legal considerations such as HIPAA (i.e., personal privacy rights) require extremely careful screening and cataloging of body-cam video. This differs from dash-cam video due, in part, to the likelihood of entering someone’s home as opposed to what is readily observable to the public such as in a traffic stop on the street.

For a small department, taking up officers’ time with proper training and appropriate day-to-day operation can be a considerable allocation of resources. Some larger departments are able to employ civilians to handle some aspects of the program, but that would be especially challenging for a department our size. Long-term, secure storage of the body-cam video is also substantially more voluminous than for dash-cam video in that body cams are active for a much longer portion of an officer’s shift than dash cams.

Finally — after all that background information — I can answer your specific questions. Should the department be using body cams “now”? No, I do not believe that we have a comfort level yet with how such a program should be implemented in our own department. As I alluded to above, it isn’t as simple as just purchasing the cameras and putting them out on the street. That being said, I believe we will (and should) have them in place with GHPD within the next few years after Grandview is better able to study the experiences of local departments, both from a legal and operational perspective. Once the Chief and I are comfortable that we have reached such a point, it would then be appropriate to begin rolling out a test program. – Steve Reynolds

Greta Kearns answered after three days.

I too am grateful for the professionalism of our police officers and the leadership of our Chief of Police in keeping our community safe.

You asked whether body cameras should be used or tested in Grandview Heights Police Department. In my opinion, more information and assessment is needed before taking this step. Body camera programs require operational changes, both in the field and in the office. We are learning from other jurisdictions as they find data storage and staffing solutions to handle the high volume of public records generated by body camera video, while also meeting all legal obligations to protect privacy (minors, domestic violence victims, and personal health information, for example). Any new program needs to fit the scale of our operations and be planned within the context of budget priorities. As Mayor, I would work with my Chief of Police and the community to assess the evolving legal, operational, and technological landscape regarding body cameras and to determine if and when a program is the right step for Grandview. – Greta Kearns

Body cams are standard police gear

If you were like me, you wondered why the police video from the spiked bat incident on the local news only showed some blurry video taken from a police dash cam. Although Grandview likes to think we are “like Mayberry RFD”, we don’t pay our police department like a small town, and have up to date cars.

Whitehall is beating us in the use of modern police equipment?

The studies are out, the research done. Body cams are liked by competent cops, because they back up the word of the police officer who knows his job. The only group of police that are dragging their feet on body cams are the “we hate new tech devices” late adopters – which is where I think we are at with the present Police Chief.

Reynolds seemed to get it – the cameras are inevitable, the Grandview Police will either use them soon or be required to use them. But he shouldn’t have added “if the chief is comfortable”, we need a Mayor that is the boss, and does what is needed to keep the police department up to date, even if the Chief is uncomfortable.

Kearns was way too wishy-washy on body cams, her “if and when we use them” holds out the option of saying no to cams. That just isn’t an option that makes any sense. If she can’t tell the Chief what his job requires, she doesn’t need to be in the Mayor’s office.

Previously – Candidates set positions on the future of the Mayor

More Previously – Candidates for Mayor set positions on scooters.

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