The Bibb County Sheriff’s Office could begin rolling out body cameras as early as August.
The sheriff’s office has signed a contract with TASER International to purchase 200 body cameras and cover costs for data storage. In recent years, body cameras have increased in popularity among law enforcement agencies as a way to protect law enforcement officials and the people they come in contact with on a daily basis.
The sheriff’s office will provide details about the agreement and how the system will work during a County Commission committee meeting June 14, Sheriff David Davis said.
The contract says Arizona-based TASER International will provide the body cameras and “electronic server storage solutions” over a five-year period. The funding for the cameras will come from the sheriff’s office budget, which includes some money seized through settlements from gambling raids at convenience stores.
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“We’re going into new territory, and other agencies are doing the same thing as we are as far as deploying them,” Davis said.
Some deputies spent part of last year testing various body camera models. The cameras have security features such as not allowing an officer to alter audio and video recordings.
The plan was to buy some cameras in early 2016, but the process of developing policies, prepping IT and putting out bids took longer than expected. Twenty companies bid to provide the cameras to the sheriff’s office.
“We had to decide when they’re going to turn on and turn off,” Davis said. “There are some examples, such as personnel issues, where they wouldn’t be recording then. Any dealing with the public, obviously the camera will be in operation.”
The prevalence of body cameras has increased in many cities in the wake of controversial shootings in places like Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 when Michael Brown was killed by an officer. The Associated Press reported last month that some of the nation’s 20 largest cities had begun purchasing or plan to expand the number of body cameras within their police departments.
County Commissioner Scotty Shepherd, a retired Bibb County sheriff’s major, said having a body camera could backfire in instances such as having it malfunction during a controversial arrest. For instance, if the camera’s microphone stops working, then someone may claim the deputy purposely turned it off, he said.
“From the standpoint of keeping cops honest, I like that,” he said. “They’re not going to do something stupid being filmed, but most of the guys and girls are already trying to do the right thing.”
Davis said that while deputies were testing the various models of cameras, the response was a good one.
“The feedback we got both from deputies and the public was very positive,” he said.
Information from Telegraph archives has been used in this report.