The sheriff’s office will get body cams as commissioners authorize spending

Image of a deputy moving toward a woman with his gun aimed at her while she is standing in the entryway of a garage
A still image from the body cam footage released by the Garrettsville Police Department show the scene moments before a Portage County deputy shot and killed a woman he says was armed. Image via Garrettsville Police Department

Portage County commissioners last week approved a $411,886 contract to purchase 124 body cams and 30 in-car camera systems for the sheriff’s office.

Included in the contract are cameras, cloud storage, video management software and a warranty, said Darin Powers, the former chief of Streetsboro police who now works as a video solutions architect for Getac, a Minnesota body cam provider. 

Because Getac is an approved government provider, the purchase does not need to be put out for public bid, Commissioner Sabrina Christian-Bennett said.

The video management software tracks who has uploaded and accessed each video and allows sheriff’s office personnel and other county agencies, including the county prosecutor, to review videos.

The in-car camera systems include outward-facing cameras on the dash and a camera capturing the back seat.

Once the county’s purchase order is generated, it will take about three months for Getac to get the cams onto deputies and into cars, Powers said. The body cams will be distributed to road patrol officers and jail personnel.

The Portage County Sheriff’s Office has tried to find funding for body and dash cams before but did not receive either of two grants it submitted, Major Larry Limbert told commissioners.

The sheriff’s office has repeatedly denied requests for interviews.

County commissioners readily funded the purchase.

“We have the money in the general fund, and there’s also other resources,” Christian-Bennett said after the meeting.

The question of body cams resurfaced after a sheriff’s deputy shot and killed 66-year-old Cora Baughman as she confronted her neighbor in Windham Township last month. The sheriff’s office and the neighbor said she was carrying a gun. No weapon was visible in body cam footage obtained from an assisting Garrettsville police officer, and the moment of the shooting was obscured as the officer took cover behind a vehicle.

The incident is still under investigation.

Following the shooting, Christian-Bennett and Commissioner Tony Badalamenti both said they would vote to pay for body cameras if asked.

“If he wants them, then trust me, we can find the funds to fund them,” Christian-Bennett had said.

Not all of the money will come from local taxpayers. The county’s insurance pool may reimburse the county up to $300 per camera for a total of $34,000, County Administrator Michelle Crombie said. Additionally, the county grants administrator will also look into grant opportunities because, as Christian-Bennett said, “There’s a lot of grant money out there right now for law enforcement.”

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Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.