NEW BOSTON — New Boston Police Captain Steve Goins says transparency and protection for their officers are the main reasons the New Boston Police Department is the first department in Scioto County in which every officer is equipped with a body camera.
“We got a grant for about $8,000 from the Ohio Criminal Justice Service a couple of months ago to purchase eight body cameras and each officer has their own body camera,” Goins said.
Goins said he sees a lot of benefits in implementing the cameras.
“For us, we work by ourselves sometimes and that kind of helps create a record of what occurred if something happens to that officer,” Goins said. “Usually he is there by himself – no other witnesses – so if the officer gets hurt then we know what happened to him.”
Goins said the cameras serve another important purpose.
“The chief and I look at it as a transparency thing too,” Goins said. “We expect our officers to be professional and they are, and our officers know that we have a policy of when to turn the cameras on and they know they’re being recorded and we expect them to be professional at all times.”
Goins said it is not a case of spying on officers.
“It creates a record that shows what happens and what was said because sometimes we get accused falsely by people just because they’re mad at the police or they’re mad because they’re getting a ticket,” Goins said. “So it creates that record.”
Goins said cameras are nothing new for the New Boston Police. For about the last seven years they have had dash-mounted cameras in their cruisers to record all activities in front of the cruisers.
Goins said the department selected the Taser Axon model.
“It has a good picture and good audio and the grant allows us to purchase the first years subscription software to the Taser website, that, when officers come in at the end of their shift, we have a docking port and those officers put their cameras into the docking port and everything that they have recorded during their shift automatically downloads to the TasersEvidence.com website,” Goins said. “It puts it into a computer program for me to where I can go in and bring up an officer’s name and date and time and it will bring up that recording.”
Goins said his department can download video from the computer and make a copy of it for court cases and for the prosecutor.
“Our main thing is transparency,” Goins said. “We have nothing to hide. We’re not perfect. Police make mistakes sometimes, and we learn from our mistakes and be professional about it and go on and try to do better.”
After this year, Goins said the cost to the village should be around $1,100 per year.
Goins said it helps Chief Darrold Clark make sure his officers are performing their duties in a professional manner and at the same time protects the officer from being accused of any wrongdoing.
A bipartisan bill in Ohio sponsored by State Representatives Kevin Boyce (D-Columbus) and Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City) would require law enforcement agencies to have rules governing the use of body cameras, and that such policies be made public.
“Requiring an agency to develop a policy before implementing a body worn camera program is not only prudent for the officers utilizing the technology, but also for the citizen who is in contact with the officers and those wishing to obtain camera footage,” Portsmouth Police Chief Robert Ware said. “As with all law enforcement policy, having policy open to the public is in keeping with Ohio Open Records laws and provides for better understanding by all parties.”
Ware has expressed his support for body cameras in the past, but with the concern as to how to fund a project as large as providing the equipment for everyone in his department.
“At this time we are not actively pursuing this project but I do intend on taking a serious look at it after the first of the year,” Scioto County Sheriff Marty V. Donini said. “From my point of view there is a lot of work into implementing this project even though the public may think its as simple as purchasing the cameras and turning them on.”
Donini said, according to research, nearly 25 percent of all law enforcement agencies have implemented some sort of body camera program for their officers. He said research also shows that nearly a third of them have failed to implement the most important part of the body camera program and that is having a policy to regulate the use of the cameras. Developing a policy is so essential, Donini said, because it clarifies the expectations of both, what the law enforcement agency expects from the officer and what the public can expect from the use of the body cameras including any limitations.
A body camera next to a ruler shows the actual size of the unit now worn by all members of the New Boston Police Department.
Captain Steve Goins wears a new Taser Axon body camera at the top of his shirt. All members of the New Boston Police Department are now equipped with the cameras.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.