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Sheriff’s office to get body cameras

CARES Act funding will help purchase body, cruiser cameras

 

The Boyle County Sheriff’s Office will be purchasing body cameras for all sworn deputies.

That word came from Boyle County Sheriff Derek Robbins and Boyle County Judge-Executive Howard Hunt Thursday morning.

A statement from Hunt’s office announced that funding for the cameras would be provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) and a public-private partnership.

Robbins said his department will have 17 body cameras and 17 in-car cameras. The entire project, including body and vehicle cameras, as well as the necessary hardware and servers for the storage of footage, will cost $232,173, according to the statement from the county.

“The lack of body-worn camera videos has been a concern in our community in recent months. We listened to public feedback and actively began searching for the resources to fund the need,” Hunt said.

Robbins said the funding was secured using the CARES Act allocation as reimbursement for salaries paid by the sheriff’s office, and by funding salaries, money was freed up within the department’s budget, matched with contributions approved by the Boyle County Fiscal Court.

“I would be remiss not to thank Farmers National Bank for creating a fund that will also play an instrumental role in providing these cameras,” Robbins said.

The sheriff’s office will use the Watch Guard body camera system, which is the same one used by Danville Police Department officers. Robbins said the cameras will automatically turn on when a deputy exits a vehicle, and in-car cameras will also record events such as traffic stops simultaneously. All video recorded by the cameras will be stored securely on a server, and no one will have access to edit or alter the footage.

“That’s specifically why we went with that model,” Robbins said. “There’s no disc or any type of media that you could remove and do anything with. It just downloads when you get back to the area where your antenna is and downloads to the server.”

Footage from the cameras will be stored on two servers, one of which will be remote. Software called “Evidence Library” will manage the footage. It is a state-of-the-art program that seamlessly integrates video and audio footage and provides an accurate accounting of any situation, according to the statement issued from Hunt’s office.

“The manner to which the footage and data is transferred seamlessly to the remote servers, untouched by human hands gave me the utmost confidence that this system was what we needed,” Hunt said. “I like that, should we have an incident, no human hands can access or alter that footage. When Sheriff Robbins shared the enthusiasm his department has for body-worn cameras, we were left with the utmost confidence that using a portion of the CARES reimbursement was the right use of funds.”

“Us being able to have untouched video that’s been saved until we need it is very important,” Robbins added.

Although the purchase has been approved, Robbins said the cameras will not arrive soon. There is currently a waiting period of approximately 12 weeks for the units to be manufactured due to high demand, and it could be early spring before the cameras arrive and are implemented for use.

“I’m excited to get it implemented. Obviously there’s a whole lot of steps in between now and activating them. We’re working on policies and procedures. There are different mounting options on how you wear the body camera because obviously it needs to be comfortable on your body, and you have to pick up as much video as you can. So we’re looking at different options and talking to different agencies about policies, mounting options, and those types of things. It’s going to be a process, but I think we’re definitely on the right track,” Robbins added.

The addition of cameras places Boyle County among sheriff departments working to add another level of transparency after recent actions have been called into question in states like Minnesota and Missouri, the statement read. As of 2016, only 50 percent of departments in the United States had body cameras, with one third stating it was an urgent need and a priority within the next 12 months.

“Thanks to the leadership of Sen. Mitch McConnell, who was a leading advocate for the CARES funding, our community and law enforcement officers have the ability to protect and serve with confidence,” Hunt said. “We could not afford this type of expenditure, but for McConnell’s leadership.”

“I would like to thank the court in partnering with the sheriff’s office to purchase these cameras,” Robbins said. “I hope that this will create more public trust and transparency for our office while providing protection for both deputies and citizens. Judge-Executive Hunt, fiscal court, and the Boyle County Sheriff’s Office are dedicated to making Boyle County a safer place.”