IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Inside Ohio’s Controversial AI Crime Fighting Experiment

Ohio's TALEN pilot program aims to create a statewide real-time crime center to create a network of thousands of public and private cameras. Records reveal several obstacles have stalled the project.

The FususOne platform.
The FususONE platform combines law enforcement investigative data into one place.
Ohio Attorney General's Office
Top law enforcement officials in Ohio are on a mission to develop a crime-fighting powerhouse with AI — but their experiment isn’t getting results as quickly as planned. Meanwhile, the bill for the pilot, funded by state tax dollars, has climbed to $875,000 after two extensions.

According to Ohio Attorney General’s Office (OAG) records obtained by Government Technology, in 2019 the office's Law Enforcement Technology Task Force (LETTF) started work on a Technology Anonymized Law Enforcement Notification (TALEN) pilot project intended to help law enforcement officers make better, faster decisions in the field by combining all of their investigative technology into one tool.

The task force aspired to dramatically change law enforcement in the state by using AI to analyze and combine data from body cameras, dash cameras, public surveillance and traffic cameras, private security cameras, calls to dispatch, social media and emerging technology tools such as ShotSpotter and Flock license plate readers into a one-stop, statewide platform that officers could immediately access and shorten the time it takes to solve a crime.

Eight vendors competed for a pilot contract to test the technology across five jurisdictions. According to the OAG’s request for proposals, a successful pilot could lead to a statewide rollout to 1,000 law enforcement agencies and 35,000 end users.
Dayton FUSUS screenshot -- represented at commission meeting.png
Dayton Police Department
Fusus, a tool already in use by police departments in Cleveland, Toledo and Akron, was selected as the vendor. The Dayton Police Department, Miamisburg Police Department, Trotwood Police Department, West Carrollton Police Department and Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office were selected as the five agencies that would share Fusus camera connections and investigative data — chosen for their past success working together to solve crimes.


According to the Fusus website, the technology is the industry’s “first cloud-based rapidly deployable real-time crime center.” Ohio Attorney General public records reflect that the TALEN program primarily uses the following features:
  • FususONE: a map-based interface that combines private and public video streams and data from license plate readers and ShotSpotter triggers into a single feed
  • FususREGISTERY: allows citizens to register their cameras with police departments and share video upon request
  • FususCORE: an appliance that can be dropped onto any public or private video network to give first responders access to livestreaming video feeds
  • FususOPS: app that enables first responders to transmit their locations, send panic alerts and communicate directly with the command center

Neither Fusus nor the Ohio Attorney General’s Office agreed to an interview with Government Technology about the TALEN pilot. The law enforcement agencies involved in the pilot declined, or did not respond to an interview request.

In an unlisted video created by the Attorney General’s Office and shared on social media by Fusus, Attorney General Dave Yost called the technology “a force multiplier.”

“Being able to provide all of this information across jurisdictional lines means that the officers are able to act in a coordinated way, knowing what each other knows and not getting in each other’s way,” Yost said in the video.
Beryl Lipton, a police surveillance investigative researcher with the Electronic Frontier Foundation said there’s a quiet, but rapid expansion of the cloud-based platform that now has nearly 150 agency customers. Lipton has filed about 70 public information requests to law enforcement agencies to find out more about how Fusus is being used and now feels the technology poses a threat to public liberty.

“I haven’t gotten any clear policies from locations using Fusus about their training or how to use it when appropriate and when it’s appropriate,” said Lipton. “Some places do have rules around when people can use the live assets when related to an active investigation or an active emergency, but it’s not clear when they can enforce those.”

Documents related to the pilot project from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office reference an audit trail capability, in which higher-ranking officers can check who has accessed the system and when, but did not detail a clear oversight schedule of the audit log or disciplinary guidance for unauthorized use.

“I think it’s not uncommon for law enforcement to want to be integrating with local jurisdictions in this way,” said Lipton. “But across the board, I do think there has to be transparency, there has to be clear accountability mechanisms, there has to be clear policies. Hopefully, if it’s a larger state-run effort, there would be a more responsible process put in place that the law enforcement agencies are obligated to follow and have consequences that are meaningful if they didn’t follow.”


Getting the technology operational took longer than expected; the initial pilot doubled from six months to one year and from $250,000 to $500,000 in 2022.

But the most significant delay in the TALEN pilot stemmed from a new ordinance passed by the Dayton City Commission in 2021 requiring the Police Department to submit new surveillance technologies to an oversight process before adoption.

While the four other selected agencies in Montgomery County without a technology ordinance started implementing Fusus into their operations in 2022, the Dayton Police Department conducted 13 public sessions before participation in the pilot program came up for a vote at a heated February 2023 City Commission meeting.

“This is not video surveillance, this is video sharing,” said Dayton Police Major Paul Saunders in the meeting. “We don’t have a problem with people being willing to share video, this just streamlines it.”

Critics at the meeting expressed concerns about whether the technology could disproportionately impact Black and brown communities, demanding more data and third-party research.

Commissioners agreed to approve participation in the state-funded pilot on the stipulation that they would vote again on the technology if the city wanted to expand it for regular use outside the pilot.

But the vote came just a few months before the scheduled end of the pilot and Fusus contract in June 2023. To collect more data, community and law enforcement feedback, the pilot was extended to July 2024 for an additional $375,000 fee to Fusus.


Public documents, including emails and reports obtained by Government Technology through records requests, show that Fusus technology has been used successfully in some cases, but unsuccessfully in others.

Dayton Police solved the stabbing of a homeless man in July, using the FususREGISTERY cameras to track the route of the suspect, who later confessed and was charged with the crime.
Dayton Suspect screenshot
Dayton Police tracked the movements of a suspect following a stabbing with Fusus, leading to an arrest in the crime.
Ohio Attorney General
But pilot notes from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office detail an incident where an armed robbery occurred at a beverage mart equipped with a FususONE camera device. The core device is supposed to send a live video feed back to the police department, but the device was defective and not connected to Fusus at the time of the crime.

The TALEN project has tested school security by placing several FususONE cameras into participating area schools. However, when law enforcement tried to coordinate an active shooter training exercise, there were problems with connecting the chosen school’s cameras to Fusus. The exercise had to be moved to a different location after 14 of the 28 high school cameras were offline.

When the active shooting training exercise was completed at the second chosen location in Dayton in June, the evaluation report noted that additional training was necessary for officers to “fully utilize Fusus on the street" and that there was “room for improvement in leveraging the technology effectively in real-world situations.” It also referenced technical glitches, and a need for upgraded hardware capable of handling the demands of remote operations.

However, feedback from officers who participated in the active-shooter drill was “overwhelmingly positive” as many felt there was potential to reduce response times and increase officer safety.


The TALEN pilot, which initially was expected to cost $250,000 and last six months, will run for two years and cost $875,000 at its planned completion in July 2024.

Program leaders have expressed that the first phase of the pilot was to get the agencies connected and test if the technology works. The second, currently underway, will collect data and determine if the technology should be rolled out across the state.

If a rollout does occur, the Attorney General's Office has stipulated that agencies should be able to opt out, but no plans have been made for how the technology would be funded.

If TALEN is rolled out to the predicted 1,000 law enforcement agencies in Ohio, Lipton feels there’s a significant need for strict rules and transparency on its use.

“If there isn’t an audit trail, then that can become a creepy and dangerous place,” said Lipton.
Nikki Davidson is a data reporter for Government Technology. She’s covered government and technology news as a video, newspaper, magazine and digital journalist for media outlets across the country. She’s based in Monterey, Calif.