WADSWORTH — Wadsworth police are looking to outfit its officers with body cameras for the first time, after securing $14,300 in grant funding.
Police Chief Randall Reinke said that while the department is still in the early stages of ordering the cameras, he is hopeful they will be in use by summer.
“Body cameras have been around for a while and we were kind of taking a wait-and-see attitude to see how they developed and let some case law play out and that,” Reinke said Monday. “We weren’t in the initial rush to make any purchases.”
Reinke said that now that body cameras have been around for a while, not only has technology improved, but there is more guidance and case law examples available for their use.
Wadsworth Safety Director Matt Hiscock said in an email Monday that he believes the move just makes sense.
“I believe body-worn cameras are essential in today’s society to provide the officer’s perspective,” Hiscock said.
In a world where interactions between the public and police can be recorded in multiple ways — be it cell phones or nearby fixed security cameras — body cameras are beneficial to both the officer and the public, Hiscock said.
“The thing that makes the most sense, if you really want accountability both for your officers and for the people they interact with, is to also have video from the officer’s perspective,” Hiscock said.
Reinke said the department has tested out different brands of body cameras, and has opted to purchase WatchGuard body cameras.
“We have been using WatchGuard in our cars since 2005, and we went to the wireless camera system, where it uploads automatically, in 2014,” he said. “So, we have been with WatchGuard a long time.”
Reinke said one of the benefits of the WatchGuard camera is that it integrates with the department’s in-car camera system, and allows the viewer to watch both videos at the same time if necessary.
Hiscock said the department applied for and received the grant through the Justice Services Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant equipment program.
“The grant award of $14,350 was slightly less than half the (department’s) funding request, but is a welcomed and beneficial addition to 2019 funds budgeted project costs,” Hiscock said.
Reinke said he anticipates purchasing around 29 body cameras for the city’s patrol officers, at an estimated cost of $40,000.
Reinke said he would like each officer to have their own camera, and possibly a spare camera or two. There are 29 officers in the department, including Reinke and Lt. David Dorland.
Reinke said he believes the cameras will provide officers with more evidence.
“I think we have seen, unfortunately, more and more people seem to think they need to have a video, or the video helps seal it,” he said. “I think that in most cases, (the body camera) is going to provide good evidence for the officers to take to court and show exactly what transpired.”
Reinke said he is optimistic the new cameras will also help decrease what he described as Wadsworth’s already low number of officer complaints.
“I think that when people know that there is a camera on them, a lot of times they are a little bit more cautious or a little more careful about what they say or do,” he said.