Smile, because soon you could be on body camera — some of the first used by the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.
“Moving into the new year, our officers are particularly excited about the cameras, which will help produce the best evidence for court proceedings. We could not have made this project come to fruition without the support and assistance of the Hall County commission,” Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch said in a statement.
Hall County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Derreck Booth said the department will receive in the coming weeks 125 body cameras and Tasers to equip its patrol deputies as well as officers in the warrants’ division.
The Hall County Board of Commissioners approved a five-year lease/purchase agreement last week with Axon Enterprises for $1,189,206.66.
It will cost $163,422 for the first year, which will be funded through the current fiscal year 2019 budget.
Couch and Booth said the department hoped to purchase these earlier but were stymied by hard financial times.
“They had to focus on basically keeping vehicles running and having radio communication for years and just focus on that. Now that things have turned around in the economy and everything, they decided to go ahead and pull the trigger this year,” Booth said.
The Tasers, body cameras and unlimited cloud-based data storage comes as a package through Axon. Capt. Brad Rounds said in a news release “the storage component in particular makes the program financially viable for the agency.”
“That’s where the big cost was coming from in the beginning. Everyone had these body cameras, and they’d download everything they did that day and the storage would just get taken up so quickly. Departments had to go out and buy so much more storage. It was eating up everyone’s budget,” Rounds said.
Booth said these are the first on-person cameras, and the new Tasers will replace older models already used by deputies.
As soon as an officer removes the stun gun from the holster, the camera automatically turns on. The cameras can also be manually turned on by the deputies.
“To be able to carry that device, you have to go through a course that is sanctioned by the company and, yes, it’s my understanding that part of that course involves getting tased,” Booth said.
Using body cameras will assist the prosecution in court cases and help the department in handling community complaints against an officer.
In addition, the footage can be used “to review scenarios and various calls the deputies go on and break them down from a training standpoint,” Booth said.
“No matter what happens in the future, the sheriff’s office owns (the data) and has access to it regardless of what would happen with any agreements in the future. That data is not going to magically go away or be lost,” Booth said.