Stark County to introduce body cameras to Sheriff’s Department

Local News

The use of body cameras on officers has been a topic of discussion in the law enforcement community in recent years. Stark County Sheriff’s Office is ready to make the change in order to bring transparency to the public.

Sheriff Corey Lee recently approved a five year agreement with a brand of body cams owned by Utility. The deal is worth $383,000, and Lee says it is a worthwhile investment as there is more to it.

“What that project comes with is also our videos for our vehicles, our interview rooms, not just the body cams,” said Lee.

He said the initial funding for the cameras came from COVID relief funds, but this system will in some way affect the taxpayer later.

The idea is not only to assist police officers in gathering information from a scene but also to address incidents of alleged officer misconduct.

Stark County is the first law enforcement office to use this brand of body cameras, which is endorsed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Lee said, “This particular body cam fits into our vests, it can’t come off in the heat of battle. So what we’re seeing a lot with these body cams around the United States is that they clip on the outside of the vest. Well, you’re seeing videos all over the place where officers are getting in fights. Video cameras are popping off. The incident occurs and now you’re getting a view of the street lights.”

These new cameras also come with an officer down feature, which alerts nearby units when an officer has been on the ground for 10 seconds or more.

Police departments within Stark County have recently introduced body cameras, such as Dickinson Police Department, and it’s proven to be successful.

DPD signed a similar five year agreement with Axon worth just shy of $220,000.

There aren’t enough cameras available for the 44 and a half sworn police officers, so some in the department go without cameras.

Lt. Matt Hanson of the Dickinson Police Department said, “Right now I have 38 cameras. Because administration, I no longer need a camera because I’m not doing that kind of police work any longer. And then our school resource officers are not wearing the body cameras.”

The idea was first introduced to DPD in April and then implemented roughly five weeks after an officer-involved shooting at an apartment complex in town.

Hanson said these body cams have received positive feedback from the officers and can be helpful when recalling specific events.

“It would make that situation maybe a lot cleaner for a prosecutor if there was questions about what the officer saw or anything like that,” said Hanson.

This would also assist officers in taking statements from witnesses and victims.

The cameras used by the DPD also have a live-feed option, where supervisors can monitor officer activity in real-time.

Sheriff Lee is hopeful the cameras will be installed by the Spring of 2022.

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