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Body Cameras Wise Decision

Like other municipal departments, Martins Ferry police have to watch their nickels and dimes these days. City finances have not been in the best of shape during recent years and the COVID-19 epidemic has put even more strain on them.

With that in mind, it is good to note that Martins Ferry police are equipped with body cameras. Part of the proceeds from a tax levy renewed by voters this week go toward covering the cost of cameras.

“Every officer has a camera they use when they have interactions with citizens in town,” police Chief John McFarland explained.

Good. Events elsewhere in the country this year reinforce our impression that body cams can be invaluable to law enforcement personnel. Well over half the police and sheriff’s departments in the nation use them, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics.

They can be more costly than most people realize, however. Obviously, one expense is purchasing the equipment and keeping it in good condition. But there is a hidden price tag, too: Body cam recordings need to be stored and managed in a way that ensures they are accessible for years to come. That requires an enormous amount of costly electronic data storage, as well as human management of it.

No doubt McFarland and officers on his department can think of many ways to spend money to keep the public and themselves safe. Setting aside funds for the body cams and associated equipment is wise, however.

The cameras provide a record of behavior — by both officers and those with whom they interact — that can be invaluable for all concerned. Martins Ferry officials’ action is one that ought to be emulated by other law enforcement agencies, if they have not already made use of body cams standard operating procedure.

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