DOBSON — The Surry County Sheriff’s Office now has body-worn cameras for its deputies to wear in the field.
Over the past week, the sheriff’s office has been training its officers in shifts on the new device, which is slightly smaller than the size of a pack of cigarettes.
”As society’s technology advances, law enforcement has found that tactics, techniques and equipment need to evolve and progress as well,” said Sheriff Jimmy Combs. “One of those evolutions has been the development and implementation of body-worn cameras in everyday law enforcement work.”
The sheriff said Tuesday that all his deputies and detention officers have received their training. This includes how the camera operates, how to implement the device into day-to-day operations and how to handle the digital data back at headquarters.
Now that their training is complete, the officers are beginning to use the cameras as they go about their duties, said the sheriff.
“The body cameras will help to ensure the safety of our officers and our citizens,” said Combs. “This is another means of transparency to the public.”
The BodyVision XV cameras from L3 Mobile-Vision can be attached to the officer with a spring clip, cell phone-type alligator clip or strong magnetic attachment.
Each camera can record 720p HD video at 30 frames per second (as well as audio) with a camera field of view that is 110 degrees wide. The battery is rated to last up to nine hours on a charge, and the internal memory has 32 GB of storage to keep all the footage.
The date and time are stamped on the video, and still images can be pulled directly from the video once it’s uploaded to a computer.
According to a manufacturer release, BodyVision cameras also have “automatic evidence upload. Simply dock the camera and evidence automatically uploads to our cloud and server-based management software. … Maintain chain-of-custody integrity with digitally signed video data from your body cam.”
These L3 Mobile-Vision body cameras will work alongside the L3 Mobile-Vision in-car cameras that the sheriff’s office currently uses, noted Combs.
The department was able to make the purchase of 100 body cameras with assistance from a grant from the Governor’s Crime Commission. According to the N.C. Department of Public Safety, the grant would match 50 percent of what local monies were being used.
The body and car cameras also utilize a data storage system from L3, noted the sheriff. His office received additional grant funding from the Governor’s Crime Commission to upgrade the server and data storage to accommodate the addition of the body cameras.
The county spent $33,000 on the cameras, with the grant matching more than $16,000, said Combs. Then the second grant fully funded the server upgrade with no local funds, and that was about $24,500. So the county spent $33,000, and the grant money was about $41,000.
Part of the training included instruction on what state laws allow as far as electronic recording, when footage may be viewed and by whom.
Last year, the N.C. General Assembly overwhelmingly passed House Bill 972 into law, which said that camera footage is no longer considered public record that can be turned over to anyone requesting it.
As then-Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill into law last year, the governor’s spokesman stated, “It takes the decision out of the hands of politicians and puts it in the hands of an independent court system, which has been given wide latitude to make its determination.”
Effectively, the law makes such video part of an officer’s confidential personnel record, with access to the footage only given to those caught in the footage or the relatives of those people.
This takes the pressure off the local sheriff to determine whether or not to release footage to the press because all requests must go through a state superior court judge.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.