CINCINNATI — For the first time Tuesday, Cincinnati Police officers started their shifts equipped with new body cameras intended to increase transparency and help officers stay safe during dangerous calls like active shooter situations.
Body cameras have become increasingly more crucial to gathering evidence and providing transparency during police encounters in recent years: The public relies on them for accountability, police rely on them for evidence and juries rely on them to determine guilt.
The body cameras come with equipment that automatically turns the camera on and begins recording when an officer unholsters his or her gun, taser or turns off their sirens. They also offer GPS tracking for officers and live-streaming capabilities, so supervisors can see what officers see in critical situations.
"The officer is already, based on our current policy and procedures, probably going to have their camera on," said Teresa Theetge, executive assistant police chief for Cincinnati Police. "So the signal side arm is just another level of ability to ensure that things get captured."
Police said the goal is to increase transparency and accountability, but the live-stream function could also save lives.
"Our officers should be focusing on the threat they’re dealing with, the threat to themselves or the community and, ultimately, a safer officer is going to make the community safer as well," said Lt. Steve Saunders, with Cincinnati Police.
The cameras also offer sharper images and better sound as part of the upgrade.
Technology upgrades come with a cost, though, and this new system cost roughly $24 million. However, Kristen Cosgrove, CPD special projects coordinator, said that cost is not an up-front one. Cosgrove negotiated a deal with Axon, the company making the cameras, so the sum will be paid out over the span of the next 10 years.
"Approximately $2 million a year, give or take, because some of the systems aren't fully implemented, we don't start spending the money until those systems are implemented or received," said Cosgrove.
The upgrade also includes new dash camera equipment that will go in Cincinnati Police vehicles starting this spring. The technology provides cloud storage as well, cutting back on evidence paperwork and making it easier for officers to rely on the footage for evidence as well.
The Cincinnati Police Department is the first department in the U.S. to get their hands on this new technology, and Cosgrove said other departments considering the same upgrades are calling them for feedback and information on the deal.