Ohio Department of Natural Resources Spends $3.5 Million on Body Cameras for Wildlife Officers

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced recently that natural resources and wildlife officers with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) will now be outfitted with body cameras.

Officers of the ODNR must uphold all state legislation and laws within their areas of responsibility as certified peace officers. Last year DeWine ordered ODNR to begin outfitting its officers with body cameras. The agency used $3.5 million in funding from the Federal Coronavirus Relief Fund under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to buy the new cameras.

According to DeWine, body cameras are becoming more important in every part of law enforcement. DeWine said law enforcement have used the cameras to correctly document arrests, critical incidents, and other public interactions. The cameras allow for detailed documentation of crime and crash scenes, enhance the accuracy of incident reports and court testimony, and assist in improving police relations with the community.

“Body cameras are becoming an increasingly important piece of technology in all areas of law enforcement. These new cameras have the ability to protect natural resources and wildlife officers while also offering transparency to the public,” DeWine said.

According to ODNR Director Mary Mertz, the body cameras will help protect people across Ohio.

“Our officers have been well-trained in the use of this new technology that will help them better protect the people of Ohio. We are excited to roll out these new cameras to increase the trust of our visitors while keeping our officers safe on the job,” Mertz said.

According to a 2022 report from the National Institute of Justice, an office of the U.S. Department of Justice says the primary rationale that law enforcement procured body-worn cameras was to ” improve officer safety, increase evidence quality, reduce civilian complaints and reduce agency liability.”

“Body cameras are beneficial for peace officers and the public because they act as impartial eyes on events as they transpire, but most law enforcement agencies in Ohio don’t have them because they can’t afford them. One of my top priorities has always been ensuring that our law enforcement officers have the tools they need to best serve the public,” DeWine said.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) has also outfitted state troopers with body cameras at Dewine’s direction and a grant program was created by the Ohio Department of Public Safety to help local law enforcement agencies with the cost associated with camera equipment and video storage.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the use of body cameras is not mandated in Ohio. Seven states now mandate the statewide use of body-worn cameras by law enforcement officers. Those states are Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Carolina.

DeWine expects all officers with ODNR outfitted with the cameras by the end of the year.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Natural Resources Officer” by Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

 

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