Local agencies part of state-funded program rollout
Officials from two local law enforcement agencies — the Bellefontaine Police Department and Logan County Sheriff’s Office — are enthusiastic to be among the more than 100 recipients of grant funding announced Monday by Gov. Mike DeWine related to launching or maintaining body-worn camera programs.
A total of $4.7 million is being awarded to 109 law enforcement agencies around the state, with 49 agencies using funding to create new body-worn camera programs. The other 60 agencies will dedicate funding toward expanding or upgrading existing technology.
Through the initiative, the Bellefontaine Police Department is slated to receive $79,650.60, and the Logan County Sheriff’s Office will receive $46,206. Both agencies will begin new and comprehensive body-worn camera programs in their respective departments.
“This is a positive step for law enforcement and for the public; we’re excited about the program,” Sheriff Randy Dodds said. “It’s good protection for our deputies and the people we serve.”
“We’re excited to be selected and to have this opportunity,” Bellefontaine Police Department Chief Brandon Standley said. “It allows for greater transparency with the public, and enables our staff to be able to utilize this importance piece of technology.
“We’ve tested some other (body camera) products over the years, but previously, it was not feasible with the ongoing costs to maintain this type of program without grant funding.”
For the local agencies, the grant funding will enable their departments to purchase enough body-worn cameras for each sworn officer or deputy, Chief Standley and Sheriff Dodds said. It also provides the funding for computer equipment, software and video storage, which is often the more expensive than the cameras themselves, the local officials noted.
In total around Ohio, this funding will help agencies purchase around 1,700 new body cameras and the accompanying equipment.
“Body cameras have quickly become a necessary tool for modern policing,” Gov. DeWine said in a release. “With these grants, more than four dozen law enforcement agencies that have never had body cameras before will be able to invest in this technology to help protect their officers and offer transparency to the public.”
The police department has selected their vendor for the program and it expects to receive equipment within the next four to five months, depending on supply chain issues, the police chief said.
At the LCSO, Sheriff Dodds said the timing of this grant announcement pairs well with other upgrades that are approaching for the department, including an upcoming switch in its records management system. The new system will be maintained by Motorola, and it will be able to incorporate the body cameras and also new in-car cameras as well.
Once the body-worn cameras and software arrive, staff members will undergo training with the new technology, the sheriff and police chief said.
Gov. DeWine prioritized the creation of the new Ohio Body-Worn Camera Grant Program in the state’s 2022-2023 operating budget, which was passed by the Ohio General Assembly last year. The grant program totals $10 million over the biennium, with the remaining grants to be offered in fiscal year 2023.
Additional body-worn camera funding will also be offered as part of the $250 million that Gov. DeWine and the Ohio General Assembly dedicated to law enforcement in December.
“This is just the start of many new ways we’ll be helping law enforcement with state-of-the-art tools and innovative programs to fight crime and protect the public,” Gov. DeWine said.
The use of body cameras is not mandated in Ohio, and it is estimated that up to two-thirds of all law enforcement agencies in the state have not provided their officers with cameras, due to equipment and video storage costs.
Ohio’s Office of Criminal Justice Services, which is administering the grant program, received $16 million worth of grant requests for this round of funding. All qualifying agencies that applied for grants to establish new body-worn camera programs received funding in this round and the remaining funds went to existing programs to upgrade aging cameras, add storage capacity or hire record-retention personnel.
Qualifying agencies that applied but did not receive a grant are expected to be funded through future grant awards.