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We urge officers to welcome use of body cameras

We received good news this week that the Ohio State Highway Patrol is finalizing plans in the purchase of officer body cameras.

We are pleased to see the new programs that will enhance transparency in law enforcement take shape. 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, administration and law enforcement leadership have welcomed the idea of body camera usage. Now, we can only hope that the officers wearing the cameras also will welcome and embrace their use, treating the cameras 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, use of force and aggression 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.

Police officer body and cruiser cameras allow police agencies the ability to record their own unalterable evidence of often-heated 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.

In making the announcement regarding the state trooper body-camera program, Ohio State Highway Patrol Superintendent Richard Fambro said transparency is nothing new to his agency.

“The protection of our constitutional and civil rights of people we serve is of paramount concern to the division,” he said.

Bravo! We are excited to see this police agency embrace the use of body cameras as a tool to improve performance of their duties and increase transparency to the public that they serve.

Now we can only hope that more departments who, so far, have not adopted use of the cameras, to move forward with a plan.

As of April, seven states — Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Carolina — mandated body cameras for all law enforcement officers statewide, The Associated Press reports.

Achieving a similar goal for Ohio and all the police agencies within it would serve our officers and our public well.

editorial@tribtoday.com

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