County continues process to purchase body cameras

Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo

REED CITY — Two grants will help the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office obtain body cameras for deputies.

Undersheriff Justin Halladay told county officials at their committee of a whole meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 20, the office had received a letter of acceptance for a grant from Resource Allocation Program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will help in the purchase of 14 body cameras for the department. He was asking officials to accept the grants.

Halladay explained that the body cameras will be like an extension of the in-car cameras currently in use.

“A lot of folks jumped onto this body camera before they knew what to do with them,” he said.

Halladay said there are a couple details that need to be investigated before they can be purchased, such as whether or not the current system can be utilized for storage, or if an additional server might be needed. Questions also were raised by officials about Freedom of Information Act requests involving body camera video, if things would need to be redacted and how that would be handled.

“At the sheriff’s office, we don’t have the ability to edit video, and we don’t want that,” Halladay said. “If we have something with that capability, it is a credibility issue on what can be edited out or added.”

Around $16,500 in grant funds will help with the purchase, but will not complete the purchase from the same provider of the in-car cameras.

“I budgeted for the cameras before and the grants will help get us there,” he said. “It is something to work toward. There are some left over line items that will have to be looked at and gone over, but I think we’ll be able to afford them.”

Despite the cost of the body cameras, county commission chair Larry Emig said it will be less expensive than litigation.

“In today’s age, the need for body cameras can be expected,” he said. “It’s a liability issue.”

The committee accepted the grants 6-1, with Pam Wayne dissenting, as she had questions about the strain an increase in video-related FOIAs would cause employees and final costs for the county.

In other action at Tuesday’s meeting, the committee approved a request from Community Corrections Director Pete Carlson for five Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor tethers and two GPS tethers at a cost of $6,450.

“The tethers have kept a lot of people out of jail,” Carlson told officials. “Our numbers indicate 4,300 jail bed days saved because of the tethers. The program works great.”

Committee members also approved Commission on Aging Director Scott Schryer to open meal sites up on Wednesdays.

“This would start Oct. 1, and it was built into next year’s budget,” Schryer said.

Currently, the meal sites are open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, and home delivered meals run Monday through Friday.

Officials also approved Schryer to begin promoting its holiday meal set for Dec. 14 at the Osceola County 4-H/FFA Fairgrounds in Evart, including allowing the COA to charge $7.50 for the meal. The cost reflects the planned meal and entertainment in the form of an Elvis tribute artist.

The committee also approved the 2017-19 Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan Older Americans Act contract.

Committee members also approved the following items:

  • the probate and family court child care fund budget;
  • accepting the crime victim rights grant for the amount of $43,250;
  • the treasurer to spend $13,719.94 to transfer microfilm records from 1976 through 1985 to DVD;
  • Anderson Tackman to handle the county’s 2016 audit;
  • a work study position for the veterans’ services office, while waiving the current policy for interns and accepting the Veterans Administration grant for the position; and
  • the Emergency Management Performance Grant work agreement.

Following the committee of the whole, the board of commissioners approved those items from the committee of the whole.

The next committee of the whole meeting is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 5, at the second floor commission board room.