Lebanon considering body cameras for police

Lebanon and Franklin departments considering adding the technology

Lebanon City Council will consider an emergency ordinance next week to outfit the police department with body cameras for officers and in-cruiser camera systems.

Police Chief Jeffrey Mitchell told council during a work session on Tuesday that the time is now to implement the new technology.

“It’s the environment we’re in and a body camera program is important for the agency to protect the community and the officers,” he said.

Other than the Ohio State Highway Patrol, no law enforcement agency in Warren County is using body camera technology. In addition to Lebanon, Franklin announced in October that it is seeking out state funding for body camera programs.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Lebanon Post is implementing body cameras and installing in-cruiser cameras and a portion of the troopers using the new equipment, according to Sgt. Jeff Staples. He said another eight cruisers are scheduled to have the new equipment installed in the next several days.

“It’s not a huge change for us,” Staples said. “It’s a neat system once it’s understood.”

Lebanon’s proposed plan would be to contract with a company, Axon, to provide the 31 officers with body cameras, and 14 marked police cars with in-cruiser cameras.

The proposed 10-year contract includes the equipment, software, cloud storage, and accessories such as chargers will cost a total of $541,783. The body cameras cost $348,516 and the in-cruiser cameras $193,266.

Advocates of the body camera technology say it helps law enforcement officers collect evidence, monitor police activity and resolve conflicts between police officials and the public. The body cameras have also helped to exonerate officers in some use of force incidents in the Dayton region recently.

Englewood was the first area department to use them, starting in 2014, and officers there are on their third generation of cameras. Other agencies in the region are using body cameras that are connected to cruiser cameras.

Mitchell said using body cameras would help to build public trust, strengthen police accountability, improve transparency, resolve officer-involved incidents, identify and correct internal problems, strengthen officer performance, prevent confrontational situations, and improve evidence documentation.

Mitchell said Axon, formerly known as TASER, was selected as the vendor because the city has been a customer for the past 15 years. He said data from the highway patrol was reviewed and that Axon has a line of integrated products including tasers, camera systems, evidence and records management systems.

Mitchell said he’s hoping council approves the request so that a contract can be signed on Wednesday. He said the lead time to obtain the body cameras is about three months and six to seven months for the in-cruiser cameras.

Franklin police Chief Adam Colon said he used the body camera technology when he was with Riverside police. He said the city is waiting to see if they will be awarded a state grant that they applied for last fall to determine how much the city will need to spend.

He said the Axon system Franklin is considering will be able to redact private information automatically and has the ability to blur faces. In addition, when a back-up officer arrives, their body cameras are automatically activated as well.

Officers will also be able to turn the body camera off when they are on break and other times permitted when the policy is developed, he said.

Warren County Sheriff Larry Sims said there no plans to equip deputies with body cameras “anytime soon.”

Sims said his department is pleased with the current in-cruiser camera system.

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