Hamilton Co. set to launch body cam program

Posted at 9:21 PM, Sep 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-21 21:21:34-04

CINCINNATI — The Department of Justice has awarded the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office nearly $140,000 to pilot a new body camera program.

The grant is part of the DOJ’s $20 million Body-Worn Camera Pilot Implementation Program launched in May, which distributed funds to 73 agencies across the U.S.

As WCPO previously reported, demand for body cameras among Tri-State law enforcement agencies was renewed in the days and weeks following the July shooting death of Sam DuBose by ex-University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing during a traffic stop in Mt. Auburn.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters cited the video as instrumental in the grand jury's arrival at a murder indictment in the case.

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Earlier this month, Vice Mayor David Mann and four other City Council members called for a department-wide body camera program be in place within the Cincinnati Police Department by the end of this year.

Former police chief Jeffrey Blackwell initially had called for a body camera program to be in place by mid-2016.

Law and Public Safety Committee Chairman Christopher Smitherman thinks the most likely arrival time for body cameras in Cincinnati’s police force is during 2016’s first quarter.

But Warren County Prosecutor David P. Fornshell has raised questions of in-home privacy and witness testimony when it comes to using the cameras after media outlets, including WCPO, sued Deters over his refusal to release footage from Tensing’s body camera until after a grand jury had reviewed it.

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Beyond the potential to sway witness testimony, Fornshell said, a body camera also goes wherever the police officer goes, including into someone’s home, which could pose privacy concerns.

Ultimately, Fornshell said, there's "tremendous benefit" for a prosecutor in having body camera footage.

However, until Ohio law catches up with the technology, there are significant negative consequences that the general public may never have thought about that need addressed.

A separate DOJ grant, also announced Monday, will add 15 additional recruits to the Cincinnati department's 2016 cadet class.