COLUMBUS — Over the next six months, Ohio will join a growing number of states whose highway troopers are equipped with body cameras, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday.
DeWine joined Ohio State Highway Patrol Superintendent Richard Fambro at the patrol training academy in north Columbus to kick off the rollout of the equipment, which will be distributed in batches through May 2022.
The $15 million program includes distribution and installation of 1,550 new body cameras, as well as 1,221 in-car systems that will synchronize the new cameras with existing dashboard and rear-seat cameras in use by Ohio troopers for 20 years.
Fambro said transparency is nothing new to his agency.
“The protection of our constitutional and civil rights of people we serve is of paramount concern to the division,” he said.
DeWine said current in-car systems have limitations.
“As technology has evolved, body-worn cameras have become a standard tool for law enforcement,” he said. “These cameras are like an impartial, first-person account of every interaction with the public, every arrest and every traffic stop.”
The initiative goes hand-in-hand with $10 million included in Ohio’s latest state budget for local law enforcement agencies to purchase the cameras.
The Ohio push comes as body cams have become increasingly common around the country.
In Connecticut, all uniformed members of the State Police were to be equipped with body cameras as of Jan. 1, 2021. The program in the works since 2018 also fitted every marked vehicle with a dashboard camera.
A similar push in Minnesota calls for more than 600 state troopers, nearly 200 natural resources officers and various other state law enforcers to receive new body cameras by next month. The budget Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, signed in September also funded body cameras for all state troopers.
As of April, seven states — Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Carolina — mandated body cameras for all law enforcement officers statewide, according to the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures.
Some are staggering implementation, to allow agencies time to purchase equipment, adopt policies and train officers, the association said.
The Ohio announcement comes as DeWine prepares to seek reelection next year.
During his first run four years ago, DeWine — then state attorney general — was criticized by the Fraternal Order of Police for appearing to politicize a police safety equipment issue.
The pushback referred to DeWine’s seeming sudden response after media exposure of longstanding complaints among Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents that more than 50 of their bulletproof vests had run past their five-year expiration dates.