SWEETWATER COUNTY – With the news full of disputes between law enforcement and the public, agencies are looking at ways to address the issue. The Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office will be taking the next step forward.
On Tuesday, the Sweetwater County Commissioners gave permission to the SWCSO to use two grants received in 2014 for the purchase of body cameras for local deputies. If contracts go as hoped, residents could start seeing these cameras on deputies in January.
Sweetwater County Grant Coordinator Krisena Marchal explained on Nov. 18, 2014, the commissioners approved four federal grants from the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security, Marchal said specific project uses were unknown at the time.
Marchal reported the Sheriff’s Office identified allowable uses for two of the grants. The first grant, a Law Enforcement and Terrorism Prevention Activities grant, is for approximately $18,887. This grant will be used to purchase five video camera with kits and storage as well as two WyoLink portable radios.
The second grant, a $67,585 State Homeland Security Program grant, will go to purchase 23 cameras with kits and storage.
While most deputy vehicles are fitted with cameras, this will be the first venture with body cameras. SWCO Sheriff Mike Lowell explained for the past six months they have been doing an executive study on body cameras. The study looked at things such as cost and storage for the collected footage.
The life of the grants is five years. There were some concerns about where the money would come from once the contract is over. Lowell said the cost for use and maintenance of the cameras is around $100,000 a year. He said the county would not have any financial obligation until 2018.
After 2018, what costs cannot be found through grant funding will be covered in the sheriff’s budget.
Lowell said the department will create a specific policy for deputies as the use of these cameras. He added that there will be serious consequences for any Sheriff’s Office personnel that fail to abide by the body camera policies. In all, Lowell said the cameras are important because it documents interaction with residents. He said not only does it protect officers it protects the residents as well.
Taser will be the company who will be providing the cameras. The office if familiar with taser and use several other products supplied by the company. The contact with Taser was on the agenda but was removed before the meeting. Lowell explained they had a few incorrect dates in the contract. It is expected to be in front of the commission at the next meeting in two weeks.
No specific projects have been identified yet on the final two grants, a coroner grant of $2,500 and a Region 4 Bomb Team grant for $20,000. These grants must be used by May 31, 2016.