Most of the ten people who spoke at a Columbus City Council public hearing last night on a proposed policy for police body cameras say the city must move as quickly as possible to equip officers with the devices, in the wake of recent police shootings.
They also complimented the city for its painstaking approach over the last several months to draft the policy. Deputy Columbus Safety Director George Speaks says the city plans to outfit 14 hundred of its 19 hundred officers in eight phases over at least the next two years, starting with the traffic division by the end of the year.
Speaks estimates the cost of the program at 8.5 million dollars, but says that could rise due to unanticipated issues with implementation and state laws currently under consideration. The city is negotiating with two vendors after testing six different types of cameras earlier this year. Speakers last night cited the recent police killings of Tyre King and Henry Green in saying the city needs to move faster. One of the speakers was former Columbus School Board president and current Franklin County Commission candidate Terry Boyd.
Those sentiments were echoed by Tyrone Thowns, a member of the advocacy group Police Officers For Equal rights.
Other speakers took issue with what they saw as loopholes in the proposed policy, such as not requiring undercover officers to wear the devices, which could have shed some light on the Green case. They also want officers working special-duty to wear the cameras. And Columbus resident Brian Esterbrook says the city should empanel a group of citizens to review body camera footage to ensure officers who act improperly are punished, which has not always been the case in cities where cameras are in use.
Under the proposed policy, cameras must be turned on at all times when officers are using force, making an arrest or conducting a traffic stop. Officers would have discretion to turn off the cameras when they enter a sensitive area such as a church or school, or when dealing with sensitive people, such as rape victims and the mentally ill. It's not clear when City Council will vote on the proposed policy.