Posted on

Council approves purchase of body camera package

The Harrison County Council has moved forward with funding for body cameras, squad car cameras and the system where the video will save for the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept., all while funding the service in a unique way.
Sheriff Nick Smith said the reason he’s pushing for his staff to wear body cameras is to create a more transparent agency.
According to Smith, the prosecutor’s office and defense attorneys support cameras for officers. He said they’ll help prove someone is innocent or guilty and save the county courtroom costs.
The owner of the Georgia-based company that provides the service said communities also end up saving money on insurance expenses when law enforcement uses body cameras.
The move will cost $56,700 a year with the county agreeing to a five-year contract. The company’s owner also said the county can end the contract at any point with a 30-day notice.
To pay for the new service, the sheriff is offering money from his department’s accident report fund. It costs someone $5 to request a copy of a crash report from the sheriff’s office.
‘We’ve sat on it for years for a rainy day,’ Smith said to the council during its regular meeting Monday night.
Smith guessed the county has let that fund build up for 20 years.
‘We would like to pay for the body cameras for at least the first year out of something we have so it doesn’t take away from the riverboat fund,’ Smith said.
Smith and the council determined the account has nearly $175,000.
The sheriff said he’d like to use the money to cover the camera service, at least for 2019, along with purchasing supplies and equipment for seven new police cars. Those vehicles are the ones purchased last year by the council, but the sheriff’s department hasn’t received them yet. Smith said it would be cheaper to install cameras in the squad cars when all the equipment gets fitted for the vehicles rather than having to re-wire the vehicle a second time.
Smith said there are vehicles in his fleet that the department needs to get rid of but can’t while waiting on the seven new ones.
That’s what moved the council to unanimously vote to spend $56,700 out of the county riverboat fund to cover the cost of body cameras and the service.
Council president Holli Castetter said the council will put in the change to pay for them with the accident report fund at its next meeting, set for Monday, March 11, at 7 p.m.
The council had said at its Feb. 11 meeting that it wanted to hear from Smith before making a decision, but Smith was not able to attend that meeting.
‘Typically, I like to hear everything and then wait two weeks so the public has time to give input, but I believe Sheriff Smith has a pretty firm case to why we needed to move forward,’ Councilman Kyle Nix said. ‘So, for me, it was justifiable to not follow suit with that.’
In other county business Monday night, the council also unanimously approved spending $325,000 for repairs and upgrades to the South Harrison Park pool, including the kiddie pool. The decision was met with applause from members of the swim team in Elizabeth and their families.
‘This thing’s been sitting in place, needing to be done for a long time,’ Councilman Gary Byrne said. ‘This, in my opinion, is part of what government should be taking care of, our parks, because it’s part of our infrastructure and it’s been sitting out there.’
The money will come from the county’s riverboat fund.