Columbus, OH to introduce ‘Andre’s Law,’ spend $4.5M to improve police bodycams

Midwest

COLUMBUS, Ohio (NewsNation Now) — Officials in Ohio’s largest city said Thursday that they plan to invest $4.5 million in body-worn cameras for police and introduce a law that would ensure officers use the cameras correctly after the fatal shooting of Andre Hill last month by a white officer.

“While many of us woke up this morning with a renewed sense of purpose and optimism, a new year and a new president does not erase the past or the pain felt by those who loved Casey Goodson Jr. or Andre Hill,” Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said in a briefing Thursday.

Ginther and other city officials announced the plans to address policing issues reawakened by the fatal shooting of Goodson and Hill, both Black men, at the hand of law enforcement in Columbus in a matter of weeks.

Goodson, 23, was killed Dec. 3 by a Franklin County sheriff’s deputy, Jason Meade, as he walked into his grandmother’s house in Columbus. The case remains under state and federal criminal investigation.

Three weeks later, Hill was fatally shot on Dec. 23 by city police Officer Adam Coy, who was responding to a non-emergency call about someone turning their car on and off in a northwest Columbus neighborhood. Coy has since been fired.

When Coy arrived, he did not turn his camera on until after he had shot Hill several times, officials said. It was only a lookback feature of the camera that allowed the public to view a 60-second glimpse of the shooting — but without audio.

“After that incident, why didn’t the officer turn on his camera in time? Why hasn’t and why wasn’t aid rendered immediately for Mr. Hill?,” said President Shannon Hardin, Columbus City Council.

Coy, a 17-year member of the force, shot Hill when he emerged from the garage holding a cellphone with his left hand and his right hand not visible. Another officer on the scene said she didn’t perceive any threats and didn’t see a gun, contrary to a mistaken claim by Coy.

Additional bodycam footage released in ensuing days showed that no responding officers rendered aid to Hill as he lay on a garage floor, moaning.

As a result, Ginther said, the city will spend millions to update the body-worn cameras of Columbus city police first bought in 2016 to ensure the city has the footage when it needs it the most. The new cameras, set to be released this year, will record without needing officers to activate them.

The cameras will also produce better resolution and clarity through wireless technology that will sync with the new dashboard cameras, which are being installed right now, Ginther said.

The improved bodycams will automatically activate when an officer exits a cruiser on a priority call, as well as be available if a use-of-force case occurs during a non-emergency call, like the one that led to Hill’s death.

The bodycam changes will not be instituted in the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, which does not currently require bodycams for its officers. But the department will be covered by the City Council’s plans for a law that would ensure officers use body cameras accurately and help victims after they use force on them.

“In cases of egregious and willful violation of the new chapter pertaining to rendering aid, the city may pursue remedies beyond discipline and could seek criminal charges for dereliction of duty,” said Hardin.

Officers who violate the law could be subject to disciplinary action and even criminal charges, said Shannon Hardin, City Council president.

“This law will not solve all police violence, but it’s one more step in the right direction to ensure we know what is happening on the scene based on bodycam footage and ensure that if residents are hurt, police officers are there to render aid and for those who don’t comply, that there can be greater accountability,” Hardin said.

The legislation, named Andre’s Law, is to be introduced during a council meeting Monday.

A bill like Andre’s Law is also in the works at the state level. Police reform bills have been introduced in the past at the Ohio Statehouse but with a new session, lawmakers from the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus say Andre’s law will be a good start but more will be needed.

“Body cameras is just the tool, it’s just an instrument but unless we have the other very critical aspects, whether it’s initial bias training, all of that training is essential,” said State Sen. Hearcel Craig, (D) Columbus.

The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate WCMH contributed to this report.

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