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DeKalb County Finance Committee sends up body cameras to county board

SYCAMORE – DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott was pleased after the DeKalb County Finance Committee voted, 4-0, to send the Body Camera Project to the County Board.

“It’s good for the citizens and for law enforcement because of the evidence used in court and [for the] transparency,” Scott said.

He defended the $128,000 cost to implement the cameras and then the yearly cost after the first year, $70,000 in year two, $71,000 in year three and $73,000 in year four, if the County Board approves them.

“This is a lot of money, no doubt about that,” Scott said. “But the savings in litigation and public confidence in law enforcement will be sustained because of this program.”

Scott said people have the wrong idea about how much goes into investing in body cameras.

“A lot of people think it’s just a matter of pinning a camera on somebody, but it’s infrastructure and storage that adds to the establishment.”

If three sheriff’s deputies are at one crime scene, the sheriff’s staff has to redact information that’s not pertinent to the scene. DeKalb County Sheriff’s Lt. Jim Burgh said that if an incident happens in a crowded area, those who do the redacting have to blur the faces of everyone who’s not in a police report. If there several officers are at the scene, that means redactions must follow for each of the body cameras.

The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office Budget plan for the Body Camera Project shows the sheriff’s office would receive 42 cameras for its patrol and detective division for $42,000, and then 20 cameras for its correction division for $18,000. An extra $30,000 for “Backbone equipment” refers to upgrading the server and other technology needed to use the body cameras.

The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office also will change one of its part-time employees to full time for $45,000 in year one, and another administrative staff member at the office will receive a $7,000 pay raise as well.

As for how the body cameras will be paid for, DeKalb County Chairman Mark Pietrowski Jr. said extra taxes to the county’s residence are not on the table.

“It’s with money we already have in our county, so there are no additional taxes or anything like that,” he said.

Pietrowski said the funds will adjust from the county’s Opportunity Fund into the General Fund. The opportunity fund comes from tax dollars through the old County Farm property near Wal-Mart.

“We’ve had to put those funds aside for special opportunities,” he said.

DeKalb County Administrator Gary Hanson said the county is initiating the payments through the opportunity fund instead of going straight to the general fund.

“The idea is to have a slow transition to permanent funding so that you’re not having to hurt or take away from your other services to finance a new program,” Hanson said. “We want to bring a new program in slowly so we can absorb those costs and not detract from existing programs.”

Pietrowski Jr., who sat in on the meeting, said he was very pleased that the vote was passed unanimously.

“I think it’s fantastic that we reached a collaborative relationship to bring this program to our county,” he said. “It’s a victory for transparency and for officer safety. I’m very optimistic about it passing the full board this month and then being implemented.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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