Sidney police to use body cameras


SIDNEY — Body cameras will be the newest part of the Sidney Police uniform, starting Tuesday, Sept. 5, for all patrol officers and investigators.

“The goal of this project,” Sidney Police Chief Will Balling said, “includes several things to improve the transparency with the public so they know that we are doing our job to the best of our ability to meet our mission statement. But also some other side benefits: we are going to have better trained officers to be able to plan and do better for the next time. I’m also hoping it does reduce some of the negative contact with the citizens.”

The cameras will automatically begin recording when a police cruiser’s lights are activated. An officer also can intitiate recording. Balling warned, during Monday’s city council meeting, that not all police activity will be captured, since the cameras will be attached to the chest area of a police officer’s uniform.

He said the city initially considered body cameras in 2015 after a number of high profile incidents and allegations of police misconduct nationwide occurred which began to “drive a wedge” between officers and citizens. Council, the mayor and Balling took their time to develop a policy for the body-worn camera project. One major concern they needed to account for is the large amount of storage space necessary to house numerous videos that could take a year or longer to be used in court.

Balling said they also wanted to wait and see what state legislation would do with public record laws, the citizens’ privacy act and to understand video retention requirements of the state. Even three years later, the state of Ohio still hasn’t produced any clear guidelines regarding citizens’ rights when it comes to public records releases of the videos, he said.

Then in 2016, the police department applied for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Grant for funding and was selected by the Office of Criminal Justice to receive $23,061 from the state of Ohio. The total cost of the project, with a server for storage of the videos, is approximately $67,000. Balling said the remainder of the cost was accounted for in the city’s five-year financial plan.

Each body camera, which weighs a couple of pounds, will be issued to each specific patrol officer and investigator so that all videos can be logged to him or her and be regularly reviewed to improve performance. All videos will be stored in a designated server on city property, not by a third party. This will eliminate fear of improper handling of sensitive videos. Balling said videos will be randomly reviewed by a supervisor to ensure officers are meeting the department’s mission and vision statements.

Balling said this is the wave of the future for law enforcement. He said the Bureau of Justice Administration did a long study on the Phoenix, Arizona, Police Department’s use of body cameras and found a drastic reduction of the use of force and also of citizen complaints.

“Because if I know I’m being recorded … I might have a different approach than if I’m not,” Balling said in discussing his hope the cameras will reduce or de-escalate negative, confrontational situations.

“I want people to be aware we do have (cameras) on, and that we do now have (them). And it’s not to entrap or catch people doing wrong things. It’s just basically to improve the relationship and capabilities of our officers,” Balling said.

“If we can improve our overall performance and relationship with the community, we have to do everything that we can do to do this. We are very lucky, really, in Sidney, in that we have very few negative interactions,” Balling said. “And I think a lot of that is how the officers handle it and the citizens handle it. So we have a great working relationship, but if you don’t keep up and continue to improve, that is where you fall flat.”

.neFileBlock {
margin-bottom: 20px;
}
.neFileBlock p {
margin: 0px 0px 0px 0px;
}
.neFileBlock .neFile {
border-bottom: 1px dotted #aaa;
padding-bottom: 5px;
padding-top: 10px;
}
.neFileBlock .neCaption {
font-size: 85%;
}

Sidney Police Officer Chris Burmeister is shown wearing the police department’s new body camera. The cameras will be a regular part of all patrol officers’ and investigators’ uniforms starting Tuesday, Sept. 5.
https://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2017/09/web1_Burmeister.jpgSidney Police Officer Chris Burmeister is shown wearing the police department’s new body camera. The cameras will be a regular part of all patrol officers’ and investigators’ uniforms starting Tuesday, Sept. 5. Courtesy photo

Picture illustrates the view of a body camera worn by a police officer during a traffic stop.
https://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2017/09/web1_BWC2.jpgPicture illustrates the view of a body camera worn by a police officer during a traffic stop. Courtesy photo

Picture illustrates the view of a body camera worn by a police officer inside the police cruiser.
https://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2017/09/web1_BWC1.jpgPicture illustrates the view of a body camera worn by a police officer inside the police cruiser. Courtesy photo

The new body camera that will be the newest part of the Sidney Police uniform, starting Tuesday, Sept. 5, for all patrol officers and investigators.
https://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2017/09/web1_body-camera.jpgThe new body camera that will be the newest part of the Sidney Police uniform, starting Tuesday, Sept. 5, for all patrol officers and investigators. Courtesy photo

This picture illustrates the view of a body camera worn by a police officer during a traffic stop. The man pictured did not want his name released.
https://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2017/09/web1_man-copy.jpgThis picture illustrates the view of a body camera worn by a police officer during a traffic stop. The man pictured did not want his name released. Courtesy photo

By Sheryl Roadcap

sroadcap@sidneydailynews.com

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.