Letter: Our police and deputies need body cameras

Building trust and accountability between police officers and citizens is more important than ever, and providing our local police with body cameras can help on both accounts.

The technology itself has been around for some time, but as Governor Mike DeWine noted
earlier in the year, most police in the state don’t have them — and that’s because of the
cost. Portage County Chief Deputy Sheriff Ralph Spidalieri told the Record-Courier that it can cost around $1,000 per officer for the camera and other associated costs.

That’s not inexpensive, but DeWine announced a $10 million grant program to
help law enforcement agencies offset the cost — a grant program that, according to the recent Record-Courier article, our sheriff’s office will submit an application for.

Purchasing the equipment is an important first step, and we commend the sheriff for making this a priority. But we are also clear-eyed that many steps remain. In order to achieve trust and accountability, we’ll need to learn more from the sheriff’s office about how body cameras will be activated and used, how officers will be trained to use these cameras, what kind of access the public has to camera footage, and how long video footage will be archived.

Cameras, after all, are simply equipment. The human part — the training, the policies and
practices — is always more difficult and challenging. But let’s get this done because body
cameras, if used appropriately, can help us build a stronger community — one built on mutual trust and accountability.

Dr. Geraldine Hayes Nelson
President, Portage County NAACP

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