Akron police prepare to wear body cameras

AKRON - The Akron Police Department is preparing to equip 100 uniformed police officers with body cameras later this month.

The cameras are the first phase of a deployment that will eventually see more than 240 of them worn by officers.

The rollout follows a year-long evaluation of different technologies that gave the department and its officers a chance to familiarize themselves not only with the hardware, but also with what it can do.

"It gave us a chance for our officers to understand the technology, how it would work, how it wold improve their process, sometimes even have an impact on safety for our officers. And also allow us to continue to build trust with the community, which is very important," said Akron Police Major Kenneth Ball.

The cameras are made possible, in part, by a federal grant that matches a local commitment of more than $300-thousand for a five-year contract.

The cameras will be used during every interaction the officers have with the public.

Video that is recorded is uploaded to the Cloud where it is safely stored in a way that it cannot be edited or altered.

The department will also have an electronic record that shows when the video was recorded, when it was viewed or accessed and when it would have been downloaded.

During their trial period, the department believes they saw a decrease in use-of-force incidents.

While the new cameras are in use, the department will continue to monitor their usage to see if they have an impact on cases like domestic abuse.

"We have witnesses frequently that recant their stories. Now, with the evidence of the body-worn camera videos it will show those exact circumstances. We feel that is going to be significant to us being able to combat domestic violence and have higher prosecution rates and get a better result in the interactions that we have because of this evidence," said Ball.

The cameras will also help eliminate questions about what the officer observed and how he or she reacted during any given call.

"We have got nothing to hide. We are very proud of our professionalism and the reputation of this department and we would like to put it on display," said Ball.

Frank Williams, the President of The Fraternal Order of Police, Akron Lodge #7 says the officers, for the most part, welcome the cameras.

But Williams also warns that the cameras still only show what is in front of them, whereas an officer can see and hear everything that is happening all around them.

"You know the camera is not 100-percent of what's going on," said Williams. "There's a bunch of other factors that play into what you are actually seeing on the camera.

The commitment from the city is for at least five years, with options for a 6th, 7th and 8th year.

The technology will be upgraded every two-and-a-half years to keep the cameras up to date.

Training on the cameras begins on July 11 and the hope is to have all of them on the streets by late summer.​