Law enforcement agencies get body cam funding

LIMA — The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, along with police departments in Lima and New Bremen, were among recipients of grant funding in the latest round of the Ohio Body-Worn Camera Grant Program.

A list of recipients released Friday by the office of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine shows the Lima Police Department was awarded $107,184. The New Bremen Police Department is slated to receive $24,125 in grant funding and the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office has been approved for $77,636.

Across Ohio 112 law enforcement agencies will receive grant awards totaling nearly $4.9 million in the latest round of grants for the program that is designed to help cover costs associated with body camera programs. Of those agencies, 44 will use funding to create new body-worn camera programs and 68 will dedicate funding toward expanding or upgrading existing technology.

Putnam County Sheriff Brian Siefker said he hopes to purchase 15 new body cameras with the money.

“We need some new and updated cameras,” Siefker said. “We’ve only had our cameras for a couple of years but some of them are out of service already. We’re looking for new body cameras so we can do away with our older ones.”

Siefker said costs associated with the body cams can mount quickly.

“They are expensive, and the hardware you need to manage and store the files can get costly. But our guys like the cameras for the most part. We’ve equipped our deputies and our corrections officers with them and it takes away a lot of the ‘he-said, she-said’ confusion. The cameras have proven to be good for court cases, too,” the sheriff said.

Siefker said he has been in contact with a vendor to supply the new cameras.

“All the paperwork is done; we’re just waiting on the okay from the state to move ahead,” he said.

New Bremen Police Chief Mike Skinner was unaware his department had been tabbed to receive grant funding until he was called by The Lima News on Friday.

“Nice!” Skinner said. “That’s good to hear!”

The chief said all road officers in New Bremen have worn body cameras since 2019. The funds awarded by the state this week will be used “to replace the cameras we have,” Skinner said, some of which are already out-of-date and not repairable.

Members of the Lima Police Department first donned body cameras in November of 2018 following an 18-month long process that included two sets of bids (the first round of bids were all rejected for failing to meet specifications outlined in the bid document).

After initial estimates put the projected cost of equipping street officers with the cameras at around $300,000, in the long run that cost skyrocketed to approximately $485,000.

LPD Major James Baker, reflecting some 13 months later on the decision to purchase the cameras, called the time spent researching vendors and cameras well worth it.

“It’s paid off big-time,” Baker said at the time. “The cameras have held up extremely well. We’re very happy with them, and the guys (cops) on the street love them.”

Calls to the LPD seeking comment on how the latest round of grant funds would be used went unanswered.

“Body cameras are important not only for providing transparency to the public but also for adding an extra layer of protection for our officers,” DeWine said in a press release that accompanied the announcement of the grants.