MOUNT VERNON — Police Chief Robert Morgan told Mount Vernon City Council that he plans to buy 25 body cams and nine cameras for the police department's cruisers. The cost is $128,000.

Morgan said the initial plan was to buy the cameras on a five-year plan. By paying it all upfront, the city saves $5,000.

Morgan included the initial payment of $30,000 in the department's 2021 budget. Council did not appropriate all of its money during the budget process, and he asked council to consider putting up the remaining $93,000 and making the one-time purchase.

Morgan said a private donor is interested in assisting the police department with funding but has not committed to a project or an amount.

The department started using body cams in 2015. Morgan said they have exceeded their life expectancy of three to four years. The warranty was for three years.

“For the last four to five years, we've been pulling parts together to keep them running,” he said during Monday's Fire, Police and Civil Defense Committee meeting.

The current cruiser cameras are 4 to 8 years old and are a different system than the body cams.

“They have served us pretty well, but we've started to have problems with them,” said Morgan. “We replaced a few and had several instances where we thought it was video recording but was not.”

He also said the technology has grown “in leaps and bounds” compared to the current cameras.

Morgan plans to buy the cameras from Texas-based WatchGuard. An exclusive feature of WatchGuard software is the ability to “record after the fact.” In other words, it has the ability to go back a period of time and retrieve video if the officer forgot to turn on the camera.

Other advancements include easier information sharing, the ability to redact audio and video, and GPS and call information tracking.

The software can also identify linked events if two officers are on scene. If Morgan reviews one camera, he will see the associated camera as well.

Each patrol officer, the school resource officer, and the detective division will receive a new body camera. The car cameras will go in the nine marked cruisers. The package includes a couple of spare cameras, extra batteries, a docking station for recharging, the software to manage the data, and a five-year, no-fault repair/replace warranty on the equipment.

The cameras have 12 hours of record time. Each patrol car will have a charger and spare battery. It takes four hours to recharge a battery. Even with the department on 12-hour shifts, Morgan said “there should be no reason why the officer shouldn't have a fully charged battery at all times.”

City policy and best practices state the department should keep videos a minimum of six months or until they are no longer of value. Morgan said the department currently stores videos 10 to 12 months, longer if needed for a court case.

Morgan anticipates it will take six to eight weeks for delivery.

During its legislative session, council took the following actions:

--Approved a contract with Dynamic Networks (previously ECR) for IT support and services at a rate of $5,808 a month, up from $5,700 a month. Part of the increase covers the recently-installed downtown WiFi.

--Authorized bill payment, trading in two Lifepak heart monitors from the fire department, the appointment of Quentin Platt to the Shade Tree and Beautification Commission, and hourly compensation for employees in Mount Vernon Municipal Court and the water/wastewater department

--Approved supplemental appropriations, including CDBG ($150,000) and CHIP ($750,000) grants; ODOT, EPA, ODNR, Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, and Ohio Public Works grants (almost $1.2 million, projects include ADA-accessible sidewalks, Columbus Road/South Main signal upgrade, North Main/Chestnut intersection improvement, and dike repair in Ariel-Foundation Park); and two Ariel Foundation grants ($10,000 for snow removal in targeted area and $28,595 for tree planting program)

--Gave a first reading to legislation changing the number of members on the Patriotic and Memorial Committee; setting compensation for seasonal personnel in the streets, parks, cemetery, and water/waster departments; creating a Complete Streets Policy; and bidding for the Pittsburgh Avenue water line project.

--Discussed the 2021 street resurfacing

Council will hold committee meetings on March 8 relating to the patriotic committee change, Complete Streets Policy, and the Pittsburgh Avenue water line project.

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