What is the real cost of body cameras?
Published 12:16 pm Sunday, August 2, 2020
To The Editor:
At the July 11 board meeting, Sheriff Royal Freeman requested body cameras for his deputies for sake of transparency and protection for all, citizens and officers alike. He spoke about HB 246 that went into effect July 1. Further, he stated the cost for equipment and installation of 16 cameras and two extra cameras would be approximately $42,000.
Due to COVID concerns, especially for officers who often have such close contact with others, he believed the CARES fund grant could be used to pay for this.
Commonwealth Attorney Bill Green spoke next. He stated he agreed with everything the sheriff had said but that it would come with a cost. He then read language that had been inserted into HB 246, stating that an additional attorney is needed for up to 75 body worn cameras which would cost the county approximately $82,000 (entry-level, full-time attorney $57,000 plus $25,000 for fringe benefits).
I had read that section in preparation for the meeting but knew that the language in the law goes on to say the following: “ …….However, with the consent of the commonwealth’s attorney, a locality may provide their commonwealth’s attorney’s office with additional funding, using a different formula than stated above, as needed to accommodate the additional workload resulting from the requirement to review, redact and present footage from body worn cameras.”
I asked the commonwealth attorney if one attorney is needed for 75, wouldn’t 16 cameras only require about 20% time (two days a week)? Mr. Green stated that Lunenburg had hired an attorney for two days a week at a cost of $56,000. This is where it got really confusing for me. How could a full- time attorney cost $57,000 and an attorney for only two days a week cost $56,000? Another supervisor said it was probably an experienced attorney.
I suggested we table this until August meeting and gather more information.
I believe the figure of an attorney for two days a week at $56,000 is based on Mr. Green’s annual salary of $138,769 (before fringe benefits). Surely we don’t need someone as experienced as Mr. Green to review body camera footage.
Since there have been several recent articles in the Gazette on this subject I wanted to offer my understanding of how discussion on this got off track at the meeting. I urge you to listen to the meeting online. Mr. Green’s discussion begins at the time marker of 2:06:25. I know everyone wants to have all the facts.
As our commonwealth attorney, we must respect that Mr. Green feels all tape needs to be reviewed by an attorney instead of a paralegal. But even if the already newly budgeted assistant commonwealth attorney will not have any time to review some of this, at the most, we need someone less than two days a week. That shouldn’t cost more than $10,000. To me, that’s a small price to pay to support our sheriff, deputies and citizens during these troubling times.
(Editor’s Note – Pierantoni a member of the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors representing the Wylliesburg/Red Oak district).