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Franklin County is taking feedback on body-worn camera policy for deputies

A body-worn camera on a person in uniform.
Franklin County Sheriff's Office

The Franklin County commissioners want the public to weigh in on the policy that will guide the use of the body-worn cameras patrol deputies will don this fall.

The commissioners in February approved a $2.5 million contract for the Motorola WatchGuard cameras.

A handful of patrol deputies will give the devices a trial run in July before the office’s nearly 600 deputies start wearing them in the fall. The trial run is meant to work out any kinks with the implementation or the policies.

A public meeting was held Thursday to gather public feedback and another is scheduled for July 18.

“The purpose of us being here is that, as we go over the next year, if there's something in the policy that we didn't think of or something that we just overlooked or we need to adjust or there's new technology, you know we're willing to hear that and I think make the policy adjustments,” said Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce.

Just one member of the community spoke at the meeting.

Pastor Jeffrey Kee, co-leader of the Area Religious Coalition and pastor at New Faith Baptist Church said the cameras are “long overdue” but the coalition is “grateful” the county moved on the initiative.

“There has been a major divide between policing and our community, and this certainly is a testament of trying to bridge that,” Kee said.

Kee said the value of the cameras is apparent when comparing the cases of recent officer-involved shootings.

“We see how important this is when we look at the playback with Andre Hill and then we see how important this is of a colossal proportion as well when we look at Jason Meade and Casey Goodson,” Key said.

Columbus police had body camera footage of Hill’s shooting – they got the cameras in 2016. But because the county didn’t have cameras, there wasn’t video of the former sheriff’s deputy shooting Goodson.

Both former officers are facing charges in connection with the shootings.

Sheriff Dallas Baldwin said the policy is designed to be similar to the one other departments in the region are using, for consistency in the public’s experience.

Baldwin said the policy requires the cameras to be on during interactions with the public, with a few exceptions for privacy and certain types of investigative work.

“It's about transparency. It's about being accountable to the public. It's about protecting the public and protecting our deputies. And just showing what happens. Cameras are another tool that helped get us to that point,” Baldwin said. “They record evidence or record what happened at a scene. They're a very, very useful tool nowadays and law enforcement very necessary tool.”

Baldwin said deputies can’t alter the footage. Copies of footage requested as public records will be distributed, though certain sensitive incidents will undergo an extra layer of review from the prosecutor’s office and some portions could be redacted.

The devices will be able to keep records of some time before the cameras were activated and will automatically turn on in certain situations.

The public can find a copy of the policy at on the Franklin Couty Sheriff's website. Comments are being accepted via email at questions@franklincountyohio.gov.

Renee Fox is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News.