Body cameras on the table for right cost

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Commissioner: 'If the sheriff recommends it to us, we'll take a look'

The majority of Barry County sheriff candidates are in favor of implementing body cameras for deputies, and if proposed, cost of the equipment is a sticking point.

Cherry Warren, Barry County presiding commissioner, said no proposal for purchasing body cameras has ever been presented to the commission, but that does not mean one would not be considered.

"We'd have to take a look at it," he said. "I would want the sheriff to recommend it to us, then we'll look at it. The big thing is cost and total benefit to the county, like if it helps in cases with the prosecutor."

Amy Boxx, Barry County prosecutor, said her office would support a decision to implement body cameras.

"Any footage obtained would be used in the prosecution of cases, just as any other video footage, and would be subject to the same [public] disclosure requirements as any other video evidence," she said. "That said, I would not think the use of county funds for the purchase of such equipment would necessarily be the best use of county tax dollars, given law enforcement's current needs."

Warren said cameras make everyone more accountable, but repeating his concern, the cost would be the main issue.

"Just like anything else, if the sheriff comes to us with a recommendation, we will look at what the benefits could be," he said. "It could be a plus or minus."

The city of Exeter bought a body camera for its former chief in 2014, at a cost of $400. Purdy considered cameras last year, each running the same cost. The Cassville Police Department's cameras run $250 each, and the docking station, which charges three at a time, cost $400.

Justin Fohn, R-Cassville, said he sees body cameras as a valuable asset to law enforcement.

"With recent laws and civil distrust, I feel they will be required at some point in the very near future anyway, so I will try to implement this tool to assist the deputies and be accountable to the citizens of Barry County," he said.

James Smith, R-Aurora, said his concerns revolve around privacy rights, and although he will consider them, they are not high on the list.

"I do not foresee a widespread implementation within the department at this time, unless mandated and funded by the state," he said.

Travis Hilburn, R-Cassville, said he believes cameras are a great tool for gathering evidence and writing reports accurately.

"If the funding becomes available for this type of expenditure, I would put body cameras on every active road officer," he said.

Danny Boyd, R-Purdy, said he works with body cameras at the Cassville Police Department, and they have been useful in clearing officers accused of wrongdoing, and useful for training purposes.

"The body camera can capture things that the naked eye can't, which can help in investigations also," he said. "Implementing body cameras would depend on budget and the need of the department."

Gary Davis, R-Cassville, said he is not opposed to implementing body cameras, but his concern is more with the use of the footage.

"[The prosecuting attorney is the one] who will present them as evidence in the criminal cases and also handle proceedings when requests are made for their release in civil cases and to the press," he said. "[Body cameras] must be studied and evaluated as to benefits versus cost. Costs include not only the camera, but the development of rules for use, retention and storage of the product, who has access, etc."

Terry Meek, R-Washburn, said body cameras are needed for officer accountability and the safety of the department.

"I would like to purchase cameras for all the deputies as funds become available," he said.

Justin Ruark, D-Cassville, said he is in favor of body cameras.

"Not only do they protect the officer, they help protect the public from the officer of any wrongdoings," he said. "I have seen nothing but positive things come from those who wear them. This is something I would like to add to the department's equipment for the deputies to have."

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