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August 31, 2015 9:00 am

August 31, 2015

Volusia County deputies begin wearing body cams for field test, officials say
Kate Kowsh

The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office kicked off a two-month-long body-camera field test today, one of the final steps prior to instituting the outfitting of more than 150 deputies with the technology, officials said.

“Body cameras are another tool to help ensure accountability and transparency in all that we do,” Sheriff Ben Johnson stated in the announcement. “Once we start using the cameras and document what we do, it should eliminate many of the questions that arise, because the recorded evidence will be there for everyone to see.”

Currently, the DeLand Police Department utilizes about half-a-dozen body cameras, and plans to expand its usage to all front-line officers later this year, according to Bruce Morehouse, a spokesman for the DPD. The Orange City Police Department also utilizes body cameras. The Lake Helen Police Department does not.

 During the process of instituting the body-cam program, the Sheriff’s Office launched a task team to coordinate issues as they rose regarding “equipment capabilities, software needs, evidence storage, retention and public records issues, policy development and matters related to training, legal, privacy, purchasing and personnel issues,” according to Gary Davidson, a spokesman at the VCSO.

“This is a hugely important issue that involves a significant commitment of resources,” stated Sheriff Johnson. “It demands a comprehensive, thoughtful and deliberative decision-making process in order to ensure that the public’s interests are protected in this very important decision.”

The Sheriff’s Office is testing two different types of body cameras, according to Davidson, outfitting several deputies working in the Northwest Volusia area with both types under different scenarios over the next 30 days.

 Officials will make a selection on which type of equipment they will use at the conclusion of the test, and then begin negotiating a contract for 180 cameras, according to Davidson.

 Both Sheriff’s Office patrol deputies, and deputies assigned to several patrol-oriented specialized units, will wear the cameras, Davidson stated.

 The contract will need the approval of the Volusia County Council, Davidson added, and the exact cost is not yet known. Bid proposals for the body cams are due March 17.

 The Sheriff’s Office has set aside $1.5 million in confiscated funds from criminal cases to cover the cost of the cameras, and the additional software and video-storage needs costs for the next five years, Davidson added.

“While they won’t answer every question or settle every controversy, there’s no doubt that body cameras are great tools for capturing and documenting rapidly evolving events as they unfold,” Sheriff Johnson stated. “I’m confident that the benefits to the community, judges and juries and officers in the field will be well worth the cost.”

The body cameras, which will record both audio and visual information, can be switched on during calls and during circumstances, including “in-progress crimes, arrests, traffic stops, traffic crashes, use of force incidents, foot and motor vehicle pursuits and certain criminal investigative contacts,” according to Davidson.

West Volusia Beacon article/published August 31, 2015

Volusia County Sheriff's Office

Administrative offices: West Volusia 386-736-5961 Daytona Beach 386-254-4689 New Smyrna Beach 386-423-3352

Non-emergency dispatch numbers: DeLand 386-943-8276 Daytona Beach 386-239-8276 New Smyrna Beach 386-409-8276 Osteen 407-323-0151

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