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City News

Posted on: February 18, 2016

Beachwood making high-tech upgrades for its safety forces at low cost to taxpayers

State-of-the-art cruiser- and body-cams providing the latest in video evidence collection technology, and the City’s new fiber-optic network offering better, faster communications with emergency responders

Beachwood’s police and fire departments are becoming safer and more efficient as a result of a series of forward-looking steps the city is taking to upgrade service.

Beachwood City Council approved legislation this week that includes the purchase of 15 advanced camera systems for police cruisers and 55 body camera units for officers.

Beachwood Police cruisers are now equipped with dashboard cameras, but those only provide “forward-looking” video recording. The new cameras will offer a 360-degree view and also be in high definition – thus providing better and more complete videos. Beachwood is the first city in the State of Ohio to get the newest state-of-the-art Panasonic evidence collection software:

Beachwood is one of the few police departments in the state that also streams live video back to dispatch. The real time video allows dispatchers to watch live as a police officer engages someone outside of the car. While dashboard cameras are common in police cruisers, many simply compile video for later viewing.

The goal will be that in the future the body cams will do the same.

All officers will be receiving body cameras.

The body cameras offer the additional benefit of offering high definition video recording when the officer is not in or around his or her cruiser – including SWAT, motorcycle, foot patrol and bike patrol officers.

The total cost for all of the cameras is $208,961, which comes at no cost to the taxpayer. Instead, the city is using funds that were seized or forfeited during Beachwood Police Department criminal investigations.

“The Beachwood Police Department is routinely recognized for its high quality of service and that’s primarily because of the high quality of individuals we have serving on the force,” said Beachwood Mayor Merle Gorden. “By providing top quality equipment, we enable our officers to do their best work. These cameras will increase the safety to our officers and should also help us get more convictions by offering more complete video recordings. These upgrades are not costing our taxpayers a penny.”

Police Chief Keith Winebrenner said the new, hi-tech equipment continues the city’s reputation for smartly investing in its police officers.

“We want to provide the maximum amount of safety that we can for our police officers,” Chief Winebrenner said. “They are out there 24-7, seven days a week, putting themselves on the line for our residents and our businesses. Beachwood is a very safe community, but that’s in part because of our excellent police presence.”

New fiber/wireless network will result in better safety for Beachwood officers, residents and city visitor; Beachwood Schools also benefit from new fiber-optic network

While officers on the road will soon benefit from those improvements, there is another continuing project coming on line that is designed to help ensure speedy responses from the Beachwood Police and Fire Departments.

Several years ago, the city began moving toward a citywide fiber-optic network with the primary goal of offering ultra-fast wireless communications technology to emergency responders in Beachwood. This type of wireless system allows the city to keep up with evolving technologies while operating with nearly limitless capacity and speed that could allow open public wireless internet.

The city realized in 2010 that it needed an improved system to accommodate computers that were being installed in Beachwood police cruisers. The city recoiled at receiving cost estimates from private vendors that included nearly $200,000 in construction costs and annual maintenance fees of up to $166,000. Instead, the city oversaw the installation of the system and will manage its operation.

All of the fiber cable has now been installed. Beachwood Schools and city buildings are connected and utilizing this high speed resource, which has significant capacity for future expansion. The city is in the process of connecting radio towers and traffic control signals as well as all other networks connected by AT&T phone lines. Chief Winebrenner said the city now pays more than $12,000 a month to AT&T and will start to see a significant annual savings as the number of networks connected by fiber optics increases and the AT&T connections are eliminated.

Mayor Gorden said the new fiber-optic network will offer better, faster service to the city’s police and fire departments and offer a wide variety of other benefits for Beachwood and its school system.

“This is one of the smartest things we’ve done in recent years,” the mayor said. “It was a technological upgrade we had to make, but I’m very proud that the city took this project on itself and has done such a great job with it – saving taxpayers a significant amount of money while also improving our services.”

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