The increased scrutiny and criticism of law enforcement, somewhat fueled by viral videos which vividly portray alleged officer misconduct, is driving an interest in the use of body-worn cameras (BWCs) by law enforcement officers. While some assert this evolving new technology as the answer or panacea to tenuous community/police relationship issues, the challenges presented by this new law enforcement tool are complicated.
When implemented correctly, BWCs can help promote county law enforcement accountability and transparency, and they can be useful tools for increasing deputy professionalism, improving deputy training, preserving evidence, and documenting encounters with the public. However, BWCs also raise issues as a practical matter and at the policy level which must be thoughtfully examined. Sheriff's offices will have to determine what adopting BWCs will mean in terms of police-community relationships, privacy, trust and legitimacy, and internal procedural justice for officers. In Ohio, Hardin and Stark Counties are currently using a BWC system while there are several other counties reviewing whether to implement a BWC system for their sheriff's office.
THE POLICY DEBATE
The use of BWCs is a very popular topic right now in Ohio and around the country. The Ohio General Assembly is currently considering HB 407 which requires police agencies, including county sheriffs, who chose to utilize BWCs to have a written policy for the use of them that addresses 10 specific points. The bill was reported by the House Local Government Committee the last week before summer recess. A House vote, if scheduled, will not occur until the "lame duck" session after the November elections. The bill would also have to clear the Senate in the "lame duck" session before it became law.