Cleveland police to have free, 30-day trial with officer body cameras while force considers options

Mini recorders range from $600 to $2,600

CLEVELAND - Police body cameras will soon be coming to Cleveland.

The small devices can look like walkie-talkies. Police wear them and can capture every incident they are involved in, from the moment the officer gets out of their patrol car.

The Cleveland Division of Police will have a 30-day trial run with the cameras as they decide how to use the $300,000 allocated by Cleveland City Council for surveillance cameras. In all, 32 cameras will be placed on officers.

Chief Michael McGrath said during Wednesday's public safety meeting that they, "will make a determination over the next few months if (they) are going to go with the video cameras in the vehicle, or the video cameras and audio on the individual person."

The chair of the Public Safety Committee and Ward 9 councilman Kevin Conwell is not such a fan of the body camera. He said he prefers dash cam video because it captures a wider scoop, especially during traffic stops.

"The body cameras would not be very useful on police pursuits," he said. The dash board cameras also have an audio component. "The audio surveillance can help us out. It will protect the police officer, protect citizens and better train our police force."

A Cleveland patrolman, who asked not to be named, was unsure about being monitored constantly.

"But you know what?" Conwell said. "When a citizen files a complaint against an officer they will say in a heart beat, ‘pull the camera.'"

Fraternal Order of Police president Lt. Brian Betley said he welcomes either camera the city decides to use.

"Anything that enhances training," he said, outside his Payne Street office in Cleveland. "When we are giving additional tools to help us do our job the FOP is behind that."

Both Betley and Conwell said had cameras been in place during last November's police chase, we would have a much clearer picture of what happened. That's the night two people were shot and killed by Cleveland police officers after a 25-minute crash through the city.

It's not clear when the cameras will go into action. As of now, the vendor and the city has not signed contracts to use of the equipment.

McGrath said it won't cost the city a dime during the trial period. The cost is being picked up by the vendor.

Online, the mini recorders go anywhere from $600 to $2,600 depending on brand and model.

"It's quite a bit of an expense," Betley said. "This is new territory that we are getting into. A lot of suburban departments are smaller in nature and maybe with their budgeting they can afford it for all their officers and their cars."

Cleveland has 1,200 patrolman and 1,500 officers combined.

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