Police across the United States have faced a lot of criticism in the past couple of years for how they are treating situations. With only police reports to go off of when a civilian is killed by an officer, many people have suggested the use of body cameras. These cameras, when worn by police, offer a glimpse into the situation to see if the officers followed protocol, and would clear up a lot of questions.
While some police departments have been willing to wear the cameras, police in Cincinnati, Ohio are a bit more apprehensive. The police are willing to wear them, but they want to be paid extra. The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #69 in Cincinnati sent the city a cease and desist letter, claiming that they can’t be forced to wear body cameras until the amount of income for wearing them was agreed upon.
The lodge’s lawyer, Stephen Lazarus, says that “Requiring employees to wear (body cameras) will change several aspects of their job and regularly assigned duties.” Lazarus would go on to claim that policies of wearing the cameras will impact wages and hours for officers. Some officials in Cincinnati believe the letter is a smokescreen, and that the request for increased wages is their way of saying that they simply don’t want to wear the cameras.
Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black responded by saying that “Having a body camera program fosters transparency, allows the city to better protect the public and protects officers from frivolous and fraudulent claims.” Black also noted that since his job title puts him in charge of the Cincinnati Police, that the officers have to wear the cameras without changing the union contract.
Black went on to say that the idea of body cameras was not something that popped up overnight, and that the lodge had “ample opportunity to bargain over its proposal,” and that “the burden is on the FOP to raise this issue during bargaining.” Fighting over details is nothing new when it comes to unions, especially police.
Other police unions, including the one in Denver, Colorado, have already sued the city for their use of body cameras since it wasn’t in the collective bargaining. Cincinnati FOP President Dan Hils is making the same argument, claiming that the change needs to be in the collective bargaining, and that “The responsibility should increase our compensation.” So now the two sides are at a standstill as the city is not ready to offer increased wages for wearing cameras.
Black did say there was a chance at an increased pay raise, but not more than three percent since that’s all the city can afford. The town’s mayor, John Cranley, said that they could go up to five percent. For Hils, that would just be what he believes the police have earned, and that wearing the body cameras should be an additional increase on top of that.
So what is the downside of having body cameras? For one, they do come at a cost, and Cincinnati has ordered 700 of them at a cost of nearly $6 million to the taxpayers. Hils isn’t too concerned about that, though, and says that officers don’t like to be monitored that closely. “It’s more stress,” he said. City Councilman Christopher Smitherman disagrees, saying that “This is to support our officers at a time when transparency and more information is better.”
Will the council eventually cave in and increase the wages for Cincinnati Police? Only time will tell, as this is going to be a long battle between both sides.