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'The cost outweighs the benefits': Middletown police chief says department can't afford body cams

Grant funds wouldn’t have been enough, chief says.
Deputy quits after bodycam appears to catch him stealing
Posted at 8:57 AM, Mar 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-13 08:57:49-04

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — Following the first police-involved fatal shooting in the city in 26 years, people in Middletown want to know why the Middletown Division of Police doesn’t have body worn cameras.

On Feb. 25, after a traffic stop in the Walmart parking lot, one unidentified Middletown police officer shot and killed Victor Lykins, 47, of Middletown, who was a passenger in the vehicle driven by his brother.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is handling the case and recently released the cruiser cam video that had the faces of the two Middletown officers who conducted the traffic stop blurred to conceal their identities since there have been no charges.

RAW: Middletown police shoot man inside car in Walmart parking lot

In December 2022, Middletown police received a $49,608 grant from the state to purchase body cameras. Police Chief David Birk requested $124,218.

Birk told the Journal-News the city rejected the grant because it doesn’t have the money to pay the salary and benefits for one or maybe two redaction specialists, estimated at $65,000 each.

He said the department would need at least one, and possible two redaction specialists, due to the high volume of public records requests. Also, he said, the department would have to store all the body camera videos for at least one year.

“Right now,” he said, “the cost outweighs the benefits.”

Birk, though, was quick to point out he’s a “big advocate” for body cameras because he thinks they “show the officers are doing what’s right. And I think it benefits them.”

The department will continue to apply for grants to offset the cost of employees, he said.

Middletown has about 40 patrol officers out of 73 officers total on the force, including detectives, narcotics and school resource officers.

He said the department is “very fortunate” that its six new police cruisers are equipped with cameras.

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