FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – Law enforcement agencies across the state are cashing in on thousands in grant money from the Department of Public Safety to fund body cameras for their officers.The Florence County Sheriff’s Office though is taking its time, testing state-of-the-art body camera technology before asking for funding.
“We’re trying to figure out what’s best for us,” said Maj. Mike Nunn, public information officer for the Florence County Sheriff’s Office.
State legislation passed in June of 2015 requires enforcement agencies to wear body-worn cameras when they’re out in the field. Agencies were able to apply for funding for cameras, maintenance, and data storage.
“We’re talking about trying to find a model policy for over 200 law enforcement agencies in the state, half of which have less than five officers,” said Nunn.
Nunn said it’s a plan that while great on the surface, is much more complicated to implement.
“You go from an agency with one or two officers to an agency with 600 or 700, you have to have some flexibility.”
The Department of Public Safety said nearly $5.8 million has been disbursed to law agencies across the state already, but Florence County Sheriff has not yet asked for funding.
The body cam law says that if an agency’s body cam plan has not been fully funded, they aren’t yet in violation by not having every officer equipped. It’s that flexibility that allows the Florence County Sheriff’s Office to try out some cutting-edge body cam technology before they ask the state for money.
“We’re currently testing and evaluating two camera systems, we’ve already done one,” explained Nunn.
“It protects me and it protects the public,” said Deputy Anthony Fox. Fox likes some of the advance features of the new cameras, which have better quality video, the ability to take still photos, and a wireless hookup to his radio. This hookup matches radio transmissions with the body cam video in real time–something which could make or break a case.
“You’re talking to the dispatchers and the dispatchers have access to information that I’m not going to have access to,” Fox said.
An earpiece is connected to the radio to keep the conversation between the officer and his dispatcher.
“Are they under suspension? Are they wanted?” explained Fox.
The Sheriff’s Office hopes to have the testing completed in the next month and be able to get funding to start their program by the beginning of 2017.
“The public expects that law enforcement will implement the body-worn camera law and we will,” Nunn said. “But it does come at a cost.”