CLEVELAND – Five months after their initial roll out, police body cameras are now in four of Cleveland’s five police districts. Police are asking for public feedback through an online survey as some question whether the program is achieving its goals, which include accountability and transparency.
Officers in Cleveland’s Fourth District first started wearing the cameras in February. By the end of this week, police leaders said 54 percent of implementation will be completed, with more than 800 cameras in use. Officials said there have been only minor issues with the deployment, so far.
The department initially aimed to have cameras in use city-wide by June, but the process slowed as the city paused to evaluate the system and revise policy, officials said. Among the policy changes: further definition of how often supervisors must review video and what they must look for. Sergeants, for example, must review 25 percent of their officers’ video each month, according to Deputy Chief Leroy Morrow.
“It helps us with safety, it helps us investigate crimes, it helps us strengthen the relationship between the public and officers,” Morrow said.
The city is now seeking public input on camera use and policy through an online survey that allows participants to rank their beliefs on body camera usage and ask questions. The survey was publicized Thursday and will be live for one month.
The results will be used to adjust policy and practice, Morrow said.
“We want to first understand the input from the community, and then we hope to use that information to educate our officers as we go forward, educate our citizens as we go forward,” Morrow said.
So far, the public has seen little video from the program that aims for police transparency. Of nearly a dozen requests for video by Fox 8 News since Cleveland’s program began, the city has only released two.
“How is this helping transparency, when not a lot of this video is being released?” asked Fox 8’s Matt Wright.
“I think as time moves on, more and more video will be released. Each public records request is looked at individually,” Morrow said.
City lawyers decide on a case-by-case basis. It has some wondering if transparency is improving at all.
“It’s going to eventually make its way out there, so let it go from the beginning,” said Ward 2 Councilman Zack Reed, who has long-supported body cameras. “If we’re going to mend that trust and build that trust, we’ve got to let transparency be on the front line.”