Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $16,880)
The Saint Clairsville Police Department (SCPD) is requesting funding through the US Department of Justice Body Worn Camera Policy Program for the continuation of its Body Worn Camera (BWC) program. The funding will be used to replace 10 BWC’s used by the SCPD that are in the process of becoming dysfunctional and have significant Digital Evidence Media (DEM) management and transferal issues. The SCPD is a full service law enforcement agency with 10 full-time and 3 part-time sworn officers who provide 24-hour police service to 5,141 citizens.
Saint Clairsville is the county seat of Belmont County (population 67,006). The city and the county are enduring an economic down-turn resulting from loss of oil fracking industry that came to the county six years ago and began leaving two years ago. Primary crime problems include drugs, DUIs and thefts. Family disturbances are also a leading reason for calls for service in the jurisdiction. Public trust, transparency and accountability are very important to the department. The BWC Project will allow the SCPD to continue using BWC’s to benefit the community but in a more convenient and efficient way. Specific areas benefitted include documenting consent, confirming statements, providing evidence in domestic assault and DUI cases, and documenting seizures in drug cases and of course will be important in maintaining positive police – community relations and achieving a safer environment for officers and citizens.
The department is submitting a request to fund 10 body worn cameras. The total request for this project is $33,760. The federal request is $16,880. The city will provide the required a match of $16,880.
The current (and first) 10-camera BWC system used by the SCPD was purchased five years ago. The cameras are no longer made, are no longer under warranty and cannot be serviced. In the last three months 3 cameras have become dysfunctional and taken out of service, giving the department only 7 usable cameras. The system does not have a BWC digital file storage and archive system (cloud storage) for Digital Evidence Media (DEM) and it does not have the capability to redact video evidence. It lacks the ability to digitally transfer or deliver digital video evidence to the courts or prosecutors, leading to delays on cases, and a unsecure system of burning CD’s and hand delivering them, usually to the Belmont County Prosecutors Office. It is estimated that the additional time and resources required to use this cumbersome system costs the department $5,386 annually.
The SCPD already has a BWC policy. Police Chief Matt Arbenz will be the administrator of this project and will manage new BWC procurement and training. This project is supported by Belmont County Prosecutor Kevin Flanagan who states: “… the number of cases—particularly drug possession, trafficking and impaired driving matters—continues to rise. Many of these cases arise out of traffic stops and subsequent vehicle searches … perhaps the State’s most important tool in the prosecution of these types of matters is the use of video footage from an officer’s BWC.”