Cleveland Police Chief Calvin D. Williams makes a statement on May 30, 2014, regarding the indictment of six police officers involved in a November 2012 car chase that ended in the deaths of two unarmed people, was decried by critics as a racially motivated execution, and is part of a wide-ranging federal investigation.
Tony Dejak/AP Photo

Cleveland police don body cameras on road to reform


Police officers in Cleveland’s Fourth District deployed Wednesday wearing body cameras for the first time. 

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As Cleveland officers hit the streets bearing the new technology, Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams appeared before the city council’s Safety Committee to detail the program.

Part of the discussion with the committee included the program’s expansion to include dashboard cameras in police cars. The vice chair of the committee, Councilman Kevin Conwell, who had previously asserted a preference for dashboard cameras over body-mounted cameras, seemed pleased at the program’s ambition, citing the Rachel Maddow Show’s recent demonstration of the value of two-camera perspectives. The TRMS segment showed how body and dashboard video provided a more accurate picture of the arrest of a drug suspect by a Celina, Texas, police officer than dashboard camera video alone. 

From the committee meeting transcript:

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CLEVELAND POLICE CHIEF CALVIN WILLIAMS: We are looking at a dash cam program. We’ve taken our time and done our due diligence on the body cams to make sure that, first of all, it’s the correct product. Second of all, that it’s going to serve us in the correct and most efficient way, and that’s why we decided on body cams in the first place, and that we actually roll out the deployment and the program itself in the most correct and efficient way. And we’ve done all that. And, at the same time, we’re also looking at dash cams, and how that fits into the whole technology piece within the division and how that serves the citizens of this city.

COUNCILMAN KEVIN CONWELL: Thank you, and I’m glad to hear that because, you know, those other cities that you’ve looked at, they have them both and, you know, I’ve had the pleasure of working for two Governors and one Mayor and the one thing that I’ve learned from them is that money is never a problem. So, when we continue to hear this conversation about the aspect of the budget that we’re going to be going through– and the money aspect of it– you know, we find money for everything that we want to find money for. These products, and I’ll never forget– just a few weeks ago, I saw it on The Rachel Maddow Show where they had both and they showed that one angle– as Officer Morrow said– one angle, if you would have just had the dash cam, it would not have shown that that police officer had to do what they had to do. But having the body camera on, it did. So, I’m glad to hear. And I was glad to hear the Mayor actually do a follow-up at Tri-C to that individual: are you asking for us to have them both? And I’m glad to hear that we’re moving in that direction.

Cleveland purchased 1,500 cameras two weeks ago after the city council approved legislation for the program in October.

Though body-mounted cameras for police became a national issue toward the end of 2014 after the killing of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, Cleveland has been researching and budgeting for body and dashboard-mounted cameras since at least early 2013.

In December, the Justice Department concluded an investigation of the Cleveland Division of Police (CDP), finding “reasonable cause to believe that CDP engages in a pattern or practice of the use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.” The report (pdf) coincided with mounting public outrage over the Michael Brown case, the death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York City police, and, at the end of November, the police shooting death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who had been playing with a realistic-looking BB gun.


Cleveland police don body cameras on road to reform