(Richland County, SC) - The Richland County Council gave a second reading approval to fund body cameras for the county sheriff's department Tuesday.
If a third reading passes the sheriff's department will enter into a five year contract with the Taser body camera company.
The roughly $650,000 of funding will pay for the first year.
That's 700 body cameras. 350 of them to be used as back ups.
The cameras will be used by patrol officers, community action team officers, the traffic unit, the fugitive team and the special response team,
The cameras will be updated after two years.
The funding will also pay for storage and oversight of the program.
Deputy Chief Chris Cowan said one of the most important parts of the cameras is how they will function, operating on a trigger point activation system.
"When an officer deploys from their vehicle, when they deploy their taser, when they deploy their weapon we will be able to automatically activate that camera. If you have a camera and I have a camera and we're both on the scene together and mine is activated yours will automatically be activated as well, so it puts in place some checks and balances to make sure that the cameras are being operated effectively and efficiently," Cowan said.
One of the biggest concerns was where the money would come from.
As a possible solution council approved the first reading for a plan to replenish the general fund after the money is used to purchase the cameras.
"We had built a parking garage in the Vista for the university(of South Carolina) and they were to begin sharing the profits of that in 2029, but the university came to us and said, 'Listen. We would really like to go on and just buy you out.' What we voted on after the executive session was to approve the sale of that parking garage to the university for about $2.1 million. That will go in to the general fund to replenish the money, more than replenish the money, the $646,000 that we need to put body cameras on the sheriff's (deputies)," Councilman Greg Pearce said.
A public hearing and final reading is tentatively scheduled for council's meeting on November 1.
This fiscal year the sheriff's department has operated on a roughly $35 million budget.
Meanwhile council also made a final decision Tuesday to add roughly $40,000 to the Voter Registration and Elections Commission's budget.
The money will be used to pay for the commission's outstanding legal fees which stem from a 2011 court case involving the South Carolina Public Interest Foundation and the commission.
The Foundation argued that the agency should be two separate units, but lost the case after state legislators passed a law saying that the commission could legally operate as one entity.
Even though the commission was the prevailing party, the judge ordered the commission to pay the foundation's attorney fees.
In September the director of the commission was placed in contempt of court pending the payment.
Councilmen Greg Pearce said the money should be sent out Wednesday.
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