Sheriff, attorney talk body cameras and legal questions

Body cameras

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – A former University of Cincinnati police officer is charged with murder, following the shooting death of a man during a traffic stop.

The entire incident was recorded on the officer’s body camera. And spurred 2 NEWS to ask questions about the use and legality of the controversial devices, which could have impacted one, recent local case.

Montgomery County’s Sheriff Phil Plummer is all for the cameras

He’s now investigating a crash that ended in a fatality, but because it was not a traffic stop he has no dash camera footage, and Plummer’s staff do not have body cameras either. The two deputies, Joshua Haas and Gust Teague, shot and killed Dontae Martin July 22nd.

Asked if body cameras might have changed the response or even his current investigation, he replied they’d have a good picture of what happened.

“The officers are saying the guy pointed the weapon at them,” Plummer said. “We have five witnesses that say they heard them tell them to drop the weapon drop the weapon. Hopefully, that would be captured. But don’t forget that was at 1 o’clock at night. So what kind of night quality do we have?”

That’s just one question.

There are others like, what happens to the privacy of a victim or suspect?

It’s a question officers and lawyers alike are asking. Anything that’s recorded would be public record. That means a traffic stop or a response to your home for a heart attack would be viewable to your next door neighbor.

Attorney Michael Wright is representing Martin’s family.

He told 2 NEWS, “It could be a problem– that’s something (privacy) that everyone is going to have to work through, but this interaction where people end up dead and there is no documentation, no recording I think that’s a bigger problem than the privacy issue.”

Sheriff Plummer agrees there’s a larger issue at hand.

And he thinks his deputies will embrace a change that would benefit the public and law enforcement

Asked if his staff wants the cameras, the sheriff quickly answered, “I think they do, since a lot of them are under the gun, under scrutiny. I think it’d be good for the public to see what we go through.”

And he wants it on the record that, “I’m all about recording and transparency so we’re not opposed to it at all.”

Plummer says body cameras could cost them $500,000, which is on the lower end of costs for the devices.

He confirmed a second version of the Panasonic body cameras is on the way.

In the coming months, the Sheriff says they’ll be testing for the compatibility to the county’s current system and for the effectiveness in the field.

Meanwhile in Dayton, the police department and city commission is weighing their options and whether they will move to purchase body cameras.

Residents have until Friday to fill out a survey on your opinion about the potential use of the cameras.

You can take the survey by clicking here.

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