COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A new generation of body cameras are being deployed across the Columbus Division of Police, with patrol, SWAT, and K-9 officers the first to wear the new equipment.
Columbus Public Safety Director Robert Clark said the new cameras play a part in rebuilding trust between police and the community they serve.
“We’re being very transparent about the process, about the deployment, how they work, how they activate, the call-back features, the look-back features,” he said.
The new cameras are out in the field right now and the goal is to have every member of the department fully outfitted by March 2023.
The city announced the purchase of 2,105 new cameras back in March. So far, 1,152 have been activated and are part of officers’ uniforms.
Two of the features included with the new cameras include automatically turning on when cruiser lights are activated and the ability to view all activated cameras at the same time.
“The clarity of the video — to actually see what happened — the slightest movements of hands and vehicles and license plates,” Clark said of another feature — improved video quality.
The body-worn cameras also have a look-back feature, which captures both video and audio two minutes before the camera is activated.
In December 2020, André’ Hill was shot and killed by a Columbus police officer. The officer’s camera was not turned on until after the shooting. A lookback feature showed the shooting, but there was no audio.
“I don’t deny that we, thanks to body-worn cameras, we have evidence that we did not have before,” said Paisha Thomas, an organizer with the Columbus Safety Collective. “What I am saying is it’s not causing a change in police behavior.”
Thomas said simply investing in body cameras is not enough in building trust.
“We need to see that this conversation is not one way, that our city leadership is listening to the community who continues to ask for real transformation, real accountability,” she said.
Clark said he wants the community to see how the cameras work and what officers face.
“So that they understand, so we get their buy in because they absolutely see we are actively involved in police reform, rebuilding trust, and rebuilding transparency,” he said.
The new cameras are expected to be on all Columbus officers and detectives by March 2023. The city also purchased more than 400 cruiser cameras.