Ohio troopers to get new body cameras

By J.D. Davidson - The Center Square

COLUMBUS — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine recently directed body cameras to be worn by all state troopers, but Ohio Democrats say it’s only a first step toward law enforcement reforms introduced in the General Assembly earlier this year.

DeWine’s directive outfits all troopers and highway patrol vehicles with body-worn cameras and in-car systems by May. The effort means distribution and installation of 1,550 body cameras and 1,221 new in-car system cameras, beginning this month with the Columbus district and going district-by-district until May, when the state headquarters will be outfitted.

“The patrol has been using in-car cameras for decades, but as technology continues to advance, body cameras have become an essential tool for policing,” DeWine said. “By investing in these cameras, we’re not only giving our troopers the tools they need to better protect the public, but we’re also giving the public another reason to have confidence in the professionalism of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.”

The total cost for the camera package, which includes equipment, storage, installation, maintenance, training and operational costs, is about $15 million over the next five years. DeWine said the expense will be paid for through the patrol’s operating budget.

State Democrats used the new announcement to continue to push a series of law enforcement reform bills that were introduced last spring but have yet to have hearings in the House Criminal Justice Committee.

The proposed reforms include House Bill 367, or Andre’s Law, which would require the use of body-worn cameras and dashboard cameras by law enforcement. The bill is named after Andre Hill, who was killed by a Columbus Police officer while he was holding a mobile phone in December 2020. The officer who shot Hill did not have his body camera turned on during the incident.

“I applaud the governor for taking the necessary action to require body-worn cameras for Ohio State Highway Patrol personnel, but that’s only the first step,” Rep. Dontavius Jarrells, D-Columbus, said. “We need body-worn cameras for all officers in our state – no matter what community they serve. Being proactive and stopping officer misconduct before it happens should be our goal.”

DeWine launched a new grant program in September that allocates $10 million toward helping local law enforcement agencies invest in body camera equipment. The first round of grant awards is expected to be announced this year.

By J.D. Davidson

The Center Square