WatchGuard

MANSFIELD -- The Mansfield Police Department plans to issue body cameras to its patrol officers in the next few months, Chief Keith Porch said Monday.

It will be the first time such cameras have been used by the MPD, Porch said.

The 16 cameras, servers and related equipment will be purchased if Mansfield City Council votes Tuesday night to accept a $50,000 grant from the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services.

"Transparency is a huge part of this, both for the officer and the public," Porch said Monday. "It goes both ways. It's nice for me as an administrator that when someone files a complaint, I can immediately go to that and start looking at the events."

In the almost three years since MPD implemented in-car cameras, Porch said the technology has also helped to exonerate officers.

"The officers and members of the public are on notice that we're going to have a recorded event. Let the chips fall where they may," the chief said. "I want our officers to be professional in how they carry out their duties.

"I also don't want citizens to file unfounded complaints about officers, either."

The 16 cameras will be shared among officers, allowing each officer on patrol to wear one while on duty. Porch said additional grants will be sought to obtain more cameras and server storage space.

"This gets us off the ground," he said. "It's a starting point for us. Ideally, we would love to have a body camera issued to every patrol officer."

The chief said a kiosk system will be used with the cameras. As a patrol officer begins a shift, the system will assign the camera with the strongest battery charge with no video in it. When the officer's shift is finished, he or she will return the camera to the kiosk, where it will recharge and upload any video to the server.

Porch said WatchGuard, which also supplies the department's in-car cameras, will ship the body cameras in about 12 weeks after council approves the grant.

He said after all equipment is received, thorough training will be done with all patrol officers and supervisors and that the cameras would be deployed by early summer.

"We are going to take a slow approach to the training," he said. "We will go through various scenarios. We want to make sure every officer is fully aware of the functionality of these cameras and signs off that they understand."

He said the body cameras will be synced to the in-car cameras. When an officer activates his cruiser lights, the in-car camera and the body camera will also activate, he said.

The cameras can also be activated manually, according to the chief, who said department policy regarding usage of the cameras is nearly complete.

"I can tell you that on any calls for service, body cameras will be turned on," Porch said, adding exceptions may be for someone asking for directions or approaching an officer for a voluntary conversation.

He said officials with the camera vendor told him an officer could expect to record two hours of video in an eight-hour shift.

In other action on Tuesday, City Council is expected to:

-- vote on the planned demolition of six structures at 187 N. Benton St., 245 Elmwood Drive, 261 Elmwood Drive, 277 Elmwood Drive, 278 Harman St.  and 397 Buffalo St.

-- vote to pay Baker's Collision Repair $5,426.97 to repair a damaged Mansfield Police Department cruiser.

-- vote on a resolution honoring Mansfield police officer Jeffrey McKinley, who retired on Feb. 8 after more than 27 years with the department.

-- vote to approve chairs and committee members for council's 12 standing committees.

-- vote to transfer $10,755 within the utility collection fund to purchase computer equipment needed to install, program, read and maintain the city's new water meters.

-- voter to enter into a 10-year lease agreement with Black Tusk LLC for Hangar No. 529 at Mansfield Lahm Regional Airport.

-- discuss during caucus the acceptance of $112,500 from the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services to be used for METRICH operations. No local matching funds are required for the grant.

--  vote on the acceptance of $77,756 from the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services for the Northern Ohio Violent Crime Consortium to reduce violence in high-crime areas and assist the MPD's efforts to create safer neighborhoods. Funds will go to payroll ($12,042), contractual services ($50,714) and capital expenses ($15,000).

-- vote to raise the pay grades and/or salaries for certain city positions, including the airport manager, operations supervisor at the Clearfork Reservoir, economic development director, IT director, assistant finance director, fire chief, police chief, deputy law director and first assistant law director, among others.

-- discuss during caucus appropriating  $220,838 from the unappropriated industrial development fund to the the city's restricted revolving loan fund to provide financial assistance to local companies for future growth and expansion.

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"