Columbus to invest nearly $5M in police bodycams after Andre Hill shooting

The city council also plans to introduce a law geared toward police response.

January 21, 2021, 4:19 PM

Officials in Columbus, Ohio, plan to invest nearly $5 million in new body-worn cameras and introduce new legislation targeting police response following the death of Andre Hill, a Black man who was shot and killed by a police officer last month.

The city has set aside $4.5 million to fund the "next generation of body-worn cameras to ensure cameras are recording and audio is captured when we need it most," Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said during a press briefing Thursday.

Andre' Hill in a photo from his Facebook was killed by police in Columbus, Ohio, Dec. 22, 2020.
Andre' Hill/Facebook

The announcement comes nearly a month to the day after Hill was fatally shot by an officer dispatched to a "non-emergency" disturbance call.

Adam Coy, the officer who shot Hill, was fired by the city earlier this month after an investigation determined that his use of deadly force was not reasonable.

Coy did not turn on his body camera until after shooting Hill on Dec. 22, authorities said. Body-camera footage released earlier this month also appeared to show responding officers handcuffed Hill before rendering any first aid.

The city invested millions to first outfit the Columbus Division of Police officers with body-worn cameras in 2016. The upgraded body-worn cameras will provide "common-sense changes that will protect our officers and the public," Mayor Ginther said Thursday.

The new cameras, which the city will begin installing this year, will automatically activate when an officer exits a cruiser on a priority call, sync with new dashboard cameras that are currently being installed and have improved resolution and video clarity, the mayor said.

The city is also working to enhance the "look-back" feature to ensure the cameras are recording both video and audio. The look-back function on Coy's camera recorded 60 seconds of the incident without sound.

"Bottom line, if this technology were in place in December, we would have higher-resolution video and audio evidence leading up to and including the shooting death of Andre Hill. Period," Ginther said.

Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents work the scene of an officer-involved shooting, Dec. 22, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio.
Joshua A. Bickel/The Columbus Dispatch via USA Today

The city is working with the Columbus police union to ensure the look-back setting is aligned with the contract, the mayor said.

The Columbus City Council also plans to introduce new legislation in the wake of Hill's fatal shooting to "make sure this doesn't happen again," Council President Shannon Hardin said during the briefing.

"Andre's Law aims to ensure that safety officers use their body-worn cameras properly and call for medical aid or deliver medical aid themselves," Hardin said.

The proposed legislation, which Hardin aims to pass "in short order" after its introduction on Monday, would require that body-worn cameras be activated during any enforcement action and require police to request or render aid under certain circumstances.

Those who violate the law could be subject to discipline, or even criminal charges, Hardin said.

"Andre's 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 body-cam footage, and ensure that if residents are hurt, peace officers are there to render aid," Hardin said. "And if officers don't comply, that there can be greater accountability."