City leaders and reform groups work to outfit Dayton Police Department with bodycams

DAYTON — The search is on for the cash to pay for outfitting every Dayton Police officers with a body camera.

Police have been doing limited testing, including useful video recorded during one recent controversial arrest at the Westown Shopping Center. News Center 7′s Mike Campbell reports that reform groups recommend universal body cams to city commissioners who have told the City Manager to make it happen.

Dayton Police have had cameras inside the cruiser for more than a decade. Now the push is on to make sure every officer that steps out of a cruiser are wearing a body camera and the only roadblock now is the dollars and cents.

Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein said the City’s budget is already tight because of COVID-created tax income shortages. Body camera systems are expensive but they will happen.

“It’s a priority of the commission, it’s a priority of the community and it’s the right thing to do, it will help both the community and the officers,” she said.

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City leaders and community members believe body cameras increase the transparency of police interactions. A recent arrest in the Westown shopping center following a foot chase appeared controversial at first. But one of the officers involved was part of the department’s initial body camera testing program. The video recorded on that camera added a lot of context to the interaction and seemed to show the officers followed departmental policies.

Asia Gibbs runs the Solution Movement and is a community member of police reform groups. She says universal body cameras should be a good step for the department but they require all officers to buy into their proper use.

"I think it’s a conversation with those officers. To make sure they are worn all the time, I’m not looking for the excuses of “I forgot, it’s new”, Gibbs said.

Gibbs also said restoring trust between police and minority communities is an everyday process and also involves the legal community.

“If it’s done properly, it definitely can be beneficial but you and I both know there has been footage withheld for years in cases,” she said.

Police and City leaders say agree that body camera video does not solve all problems but say it IS an objective source of data. They call it an important piece of the puzzle.

“It takes multiple sources of video to build a comprehensive story of an interaction,” Dickstein added.

The City Manager believes the body-worn cameras can be in place by the first part of 2021, with March or April is the target date. The City believes it will be one more tool to build better bonds between police and the community.