GALLIPOLIS — Gallia County Sheriff’s Office will soon be equipping its patrol deputies with body cameras by the end of the month in an attempt to strengthen transparency efforts with the public, to procure further evidence in crimes and also protect officers and the public in police interactions.
According to Gallia County Sheriff Joe Browning, the new camera units purchased can sync with the sheriff’s cruiser dashboard cameras. Policy has been written and approved by the Gallia County Prosecutor’s Office in accordance with CORSA (County Risk Sharing Authority) mandates.
“All of our staff prior to deploying these will receive training in how we expect them to use that in accordance with the policy,” said Browning” We’ll give them tactics and tips on how to preserve evidence.”
Browning said when a deputy encounters individuals in a citizen contact over the course of doing their job, the camera is expected to be activated. There are exceptions when the cameras can be turned off if an officer is speaking with an individual in a confidential nature, such as arriving on a medical emergency that may have nothing to do with a crime.
Browning says he expects as technology improves officers may be able to share live streaming data with dispatchers and 911 call operators.
“Legally, when we’re talking about policies and procedures, that standard will change as court standards change,” said Browning. “We already know that when we issue these out what we’re producing is an investigative product and at the end of the day, when the investigation is closed, it may be considered public record under Ohio law that someone may request. Quite honestly, the expense of a body camera isn’t with the unit but it’s with the cost of storing the footage.”
Browning said the county was working with CORSA to try and get some reimbursement over data storage costs.
The camera units purchased for the sheriff’s office were actually funded through the Gallia Prosecutor Jeff Adkin’s Office. For around $15,000, 19 camera units were purchased. The funds were pulled from the law enforcement trust fund, an account of money which gathers its funds from forfeitures made from drug busts. The money is often put back into law enforcement needs such as equipment and training.
“We have an opportunity to not only help a deputy gather better evidence and be more accurate, it also protects the deputy from false accusations and the public and that context,” said Browning.
“What I like about it is the better preservation of evidence,” said Adkins. “A picture is worth a thousand words and a movie will be priceless.”
The Digital Ally FirstVu cameras will for up to 60 seconds of prerecorded data. That means the camera is always on but never fully recording. The camera holds 60 seconds worth of temporary footage at all times until an officer hits the record button, then those previous 60 seconds prior to the button being hit are also added to the video the officer creates after hitting the record button.
The Gallia body cameras will also have a field of view of 130 degrees, internal storage of up to 16 hours of high definition video with an extended battery life of up to eight hours.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.