Mansfield police officers began using body-worn cameras this week, thanks to a $50,000 grant approved by city council earlier this year.
Mansfield police Chief Keith Porch Tuesday morning showcased the body camera system to media in the roll call room at the police station. The body cameras will be used by on-duty, uniformed patrol officers.
Porch said he wanted to inform the public that the department went live starting Monday.
The grant, awarded by the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services, was used to buy 16 body cameras, a docking station and software that stores video footage.
The purchase represents the first step toward outfitting all patrol officers with body cameras. A second $40,000 grant in 2022 will allow the department to buy 24 additional body cameras.
Officers sign in, get assigned a body cam
The 16 Motorola Watchguard cameras are located in the roll call office where each officer coming on shift signs into the computer and is assigned a body camera, according to Porch. Training is now in process and the chief said he anticipates all officers will be trained by the end of December.
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Porch said the cruiser video camera/body worn camera policy will be posted on the department's web site at mansfieldpolicedepartment.com.
"As the shift comes off, these will have to be docked with the videos being uploaded, and then the next shift hits the next body cameras and hits the streets," he said.
In-car dashboard cameras were introduced to the force three years ago, according to Porch.
Officers who are operating a cruiser with an in-car camera system (dashboard camera) will "sync" the body worn camera to the in-car camera system prior to the start of their shift.
Mansfield police Sgt. Patrick Williams said wearing a body camera as a patrol officer means videos will capture how he and others conduct themselves.
"In the incident of a critical incident, the justification of our actions could be captured," he said.
See how public acts toward police officers
Williams said he believes that if the cameras' content was distributed widely, many people would be shocked at how the public acts toward police officers and authority figures in general.
"Typically when we have citizens come in and participate in a citizen observation program, do a 'ride-along,' they usually leave very surprised at how people behave, because they themselves would never treat an officer that way who arrived to quell a disturbance or provide some assistance," Williams said.
Porch said he is confident that 99% of the body cameras will highlight the fantastic work of patrol officers on a day-to-day basis.
"It's just going to highlight to the public just how professional this police department is, that we do the right things in horrible times when those situations pop up," Porch added.
Williams was wearing a body camera on his uniform during the demonstration Tuesday. It is lightweight and held securely in place by a magnet.
The body camera footage can be retained for a minimum of 30 days, for such things as a traffic stop/speeding ticket, and up to a year by the crime lab once a case such as a domestic incident is closed.
"If we have a longer retention period it costs a lot more money to house the videos," Porch said.
Porch said at sometime in the future, if finances are available, he would love to have every officer issued a body camera just as they are issued a taser and a sidearm.
"That is the plan for down the road," he added.
This article originally appeared on Mansfield News Journal: Mansfield police roll out body cameras this week