Oakwood joins other cities acquiring police cruiser, body cameras

Safety director says decision influenced by aftermath of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Credit: AFP/Getty Images

OAKWOOD – The city of Oakwood plans to buy police cruiser and body cameras, joining a growing number of area law enforcement agencies seeking to increase transparency and accountability.

Both types of cameras would be a first for Oakwood and the Monday announcement follows actions in recent weeks by Dayton and Kettering to move toward using police body cameras, which several agencies across the region have done.

Oakwood’s decision on cameras was influenced by this year’s protests and violence against law enforcement after the death of George Floyd in May while he was in Minneapolis police custody, Safety Director Alan Hill told the Dayton Daily News.

The aftermath of Floyd’s death “caused every agency…to say is ‘Is there opportunities for improvement?’,” Hill said.

Oakwood has had no incidents in the past 10 years “where in-car camera or body-warn camera footage would have changed the outcome on any case or complaint,” he added.

But “when you’re talking about department transparency, public trust and officer accountability being the three most critical components as we move forward, I think this is a big step.,” Hill said.

Oakwood is estimating it will cost about $120,000 to buy seven in-car and 23 body-worn cameras to equip its officers.

The issue is set to go to Oakwood City Council next month, Hill said, with the goal of having the cameras operational by April 2021.

Last month, Dayton City Commission accepted the recommendation by a police reform committee to acquire body cameras for officers and directed the city manager to identify funding for the technology.

Dayton police have been testing body cameras since August, said Dayton police Chief Richard Biehl has said.

Kettering later approved $236,000 in supplemental funds this year to buy the cameras and have them in place early next year.

Other area law enforcement agencies using them include Beavercreek, Huber Heights, the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, Tipp City, Trotwood and Xenia, records show.

Oakwood’s announcement was welcomed by a legal organization which has questioned the practices of the city’s safety department.

“Anything that increases accountability and transparency is a good thing,” said Ellis Jacobs, an attorney with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc., which last year issued a report critical of Oakwood police practices involving minorities.

But Oakwood has “to make sure they have the right policies in place for how they are used and how the video of the encounters are saved” or stored, he added.

Hill said the ABLE report had “zero impact” on the timing of the decision by Oakwood, which has called the group’s findings “seriously flawed.”

ABLE said traffic-ticket data in Oakwood shows that black drivers in that city accounted for nearly 22% of the stops where a problem with driving or equipment was observed.

However, they accounted for nearly 37% of stops where a license plate check was run without tickets being written for an observable driving or equipment problem.

Oakwood’s black population is less than 1 percent and its total non-white population is less than 7 percent, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Oakwood has called the ABLE report “seriously flawed in several ways, rendering it inconclusive at best and invalid at worst,” city records show.

The city questioned how the study used race in comparing traffic citations, but not in how many people drive through the city’s whose main artery is Ohio 48.

Oakwood also was critical of the report’s comparison of the heavily-residential suburb of about 9,000 to Kettering, which has about six times of the population.

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