Russell Police Chief Explains Process to Apply for Body Cam Grant
October 17, 2021 by Ann Wishart

There is more to having police officers using body-worn cameras than pinning them on a vest.

There is more to having police officers using body-worn cameras than pinning them on a vest.

That became clear Oct. 5, when Russell Township Police Chief Tom Swaidner told Russell Township Trustees the steps he needs to take before applying next year for a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The multi-million-dollar grant will provide funding for BWCs to law enforcement organizations with fewer than 50 full-time sworn personnel, according to the July press release from the DOJ.

Swaidner, who became chief upon the retirement of Tim Carroll mid-September, said the deadline to apply in 2021 can’t be met because of the requirements of the grant, but he expects there will be similar funding in 2022.

“There’s a lot to work out,” he told trustees.

The department needs a policy for BWC use and the prosecuting attorney has to concur that BWC recordings are acceptable evidence to use in court cases, Swaidner said.

On the technical side, the township has to decide what software the program needs, how it will store the recordings securely and how to redact sensitive material when the recordings become public, he said.

Swaidner said his department has been checking out possible vendors, starting with the company that supplies Russell’s car video equipment.

“It’s a big project to implement,” he said, adding there is no local road map to start it up. No other police department in Geauga County has BWCs, but he said he plans to contact the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office for advice.

“There are a lot of questions (such as) is this a violation of an officer’s contract?” Swaidner said. “There’s a lot of moving parts.”

Trustee Jim Mueller urged the chief to keep moving on the program since he thinks the state legislature will eventually make BWCs mandatory for law enforcement officers.

Swaidner agreed, adding the cameras generally are a benefit to officers.

“There’s more officers exonerated of wrong-doing than officers getting in trouble for things captured on camera,” he said. “Over the next 10 years, (BWCs) will become standard. In-car cameras took time.”

In other business, Trustee Gary Gabram said the report on asbestos in the old fire station should be done soon so demolition may begin mid-October, depending on the findings.

The estimate for all the work was $71,000 with a bid of $21,000 for the actual demolition, he said.

That price includes plugging the well, shifting around recycling containers behind the old station and moving equipment.

“We’re utilizing everything we can,” he said via phone call Oct. 6.