GC Sheriff’s Dept to use body cameras
The contract between Grand County and Taser International for the purchase of 15 body cameras for the Grand County Sheriff’s Department was approved by the Grand County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) at their Tuesday, October 4 meeting.
The motion approved the release of capital in the amount of $15,000 for the purchase of the cameras, docking stations, and data storage. After the initial purchase, there will be a yearly data storage fee of $5,136 for five years.
Grand County Undersheriff Wayne Schafer presented the contract to the BOCC. Schafer said the Sheriff’s department has tested many different types of body cameras, and that the cameras produced by Taser International seem to be the best fit for Grand County.
The Granby Police Department is currently the only law enforcement in Grand County that is using a body camera system.
County Manager Lee Staab commented that he had seen the use of body cameras in North Dakota, and he liked the results. Staab said he had observed many issues that were originally contentious, but then resolved quickly by reviewing camera footage.
“With the data, it usually just takes a two minute conversation, and the discussion is over,” Staab said. “You can say ‘here’s what actually happened.’”
The Sheriff’s Department is hoping to get enough data to last 60 days after each use of the cameras, Schafer said.
The officers must turn the camera on for every contact they make with someone, and remembering to do so will be a learning curve for the officers. The Sheriffs Department is developing their own training protocol for the use of the body cameras using guidelines that Schafer said had worked successfully for other police departments.
Schafer said he is confident that the patrol officers will learn and use the body camera system correctly.
Body cameras are a controversial issue with police departments all over the country, and Schafer referenced body camera issues in the news.
He said the incidents seen through the media are usually the worst cases, but that the Grand County Sherrif’s department patrol officers handle themselves professionally, and that over time, the body camera system will help alleviate some complaints.
County Attorney Alan Hassler expressed concern with body cameras saying that in his experience there are some issues that can cause the cameras to be ineffective.
Hassler referenced potential situations where the angle of the body camera would not show what really happened enough for sufficient evidence.
He also brought up the potential situation where the data from a camera had been overwritten by the time a complaint was filed, stating that Federal lawsuits can be brought up to two years after an incident.
Hassler suggested that the Sheriff’s department must be aware if an incident is likely to bring a complaint so they can keep the data.
Schafer said it would be a learning process, but the Sheriff’s department will have to use judgment on what data to archive. With events that are likely to bring criminal charges and uses of force, the data will be saved.
According to Public Information Officer for the Sheriff’s office, Lt. Dan Mayer, there will also be policies regarding officers who forget to turn their cameras on.
He said it is fairly easy to notice if an officer continually forgets to turn their camera on and it will eventually become the same situation as any other disciplinary action.
Mayer also noted that officers should be aware that the camera system is in place to protect them so it should become a matter of habit to turn them on. Mayer said he feels body cameras are great tools when used correctly.
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