The Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office plans on equipping the majority of its deputies with body cameras in the near future and the Tallahassee Police Department hopes to do the same.
TPD has made a budget request for 400 body cameras, which the agency plans on making standard-issue equipment for all officers. The cost of those would be $360,000, according to TPD.
Spokesman Officer Scott Beck said the agency has about 10 cameras used by traffic enforcement officers in the field.
As part of its 2015-2016 budget proposal, TPD has also asked for an additional 230 in-car cameras at a cost of $1.3 million.
Sheriff Charlie Creel said on Tuesday he plans on having deputies wear the body cameras within the next three months. The sheriff’s office has been in discussions with several vendors over the last several months, looking at prices and features of several models, including where a camera clips on to a deputy’s uniform, said WCSO spokesman Keith Blackmar.
Blackmar said there are a few vendors Creel liked, but no final decisions have been made. Altogether, the agency hopes to get about 60-70 cameras, which will be on WCSO detention deputies stationed in the jail and patrol deputies in the field, which make up a majority of the about 100 deputies on the force.
The agency has estimated the cameras will cost about $60,000. They expect to use money from the Drug Trust Fund, cash confiscated from drug arrests. A recent bust on Woodville Highway netted the fund $125,000, Blackmar said.
Paying for body cameras would require approval from the Wakulla County Commission.
Commission Chairman Ralph Thomas said while he doesn’t have an opinion on the use of body cameras, he would back Creel’s efforts to get them.
“I’m supportive of the sheriff making those decisions,” he said. “If he thinks that’s the best call, I support him on that.”
Wakulla Commissioner Howard Kessler said he expects any funding request from Creel to pass. He added that body cameras add transparency to the force, but that the issue isn’t cut and dry.
Body cameras may discourage people from talking to police and sharing information with them, Kessler said.
The Leon County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. James McQuaig said the agency is still discussing the idea.
In preparation for acquiring the new equipment, TPD is also working on updating its policies and procedures to include use of body cameras.
The in-car cameras have helped more than hurt the agency when it comes to accusations against officers, Beck said. The same thinking applies to body cameras.