COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Mary Mertz today announced that ODNR has begun outfitting all natural resources and wildlife officers with body cameras.

“Body cameras are becoming an increasingly important piece of technology in all areas of law enforcement,” DeWine said. “These new cameras have the ability to protect natural resources and wildlife officers while also offering transparency to the public.”

ODNR officers are certified peace officers who are required to enforce all laws and statutes of the state within their jurisdictions. DeWine directed ODNR to begin the process of outfitting their officers with body cameras last year.

Following that directive, ODNR pursued approval from the Ohio Controlling Board to use $3.5 million in federal funding from the Federal Coronavirus Relief Fund under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to purchase the new cameras.

“Our officers have been well-trained in the use of this new technology that will help them better protect the people of Ohio,” said ODNR Director Mary Mertz. “We are excited to roll out these new cameras to increase the trust of our visitors while keeping our officers safe on the job.”

Body cameras have become a key tool for law enforcement in recent years to accurately document arrests, critical incidents, and other interactions with the public. The cameras also allow for detailed documentation of crime and crash scenes, enhance the accuracy of incident reports and court testimony, and help to improve community-police relations.

The rollout of ODNR body cameras is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

 At DeWine’s direction, the Ohio State Highway Patrol has also outfitted state troopers with body cameras. A grant program was developed by the Ohio Department of Public Safety to assist local law enforcement agencies with the costs associated with camera equipment and video storage.