Chatham County deputies will be introducing body cameras to their equipment beginning early next year.
Sheriff Mike Roberson says the cameras will be introduced gradually within three years with the ultimate goal being to equip all deputies with cameras, including those who work in the Detention and Justice Centers.
“Body cameras are just a natural progression of our in car cameras that we already have and we are supplementing that to capture more evidence from multiple perspectives. Obviously no system is perfect but body cameras are a big step towards increasing transparency, accountability and trust,” said Roberson.
Roberson says he thinks the progression into cameras will not be difficult because deputies already use similar audio recorders and because the new cameras will work with equipment they already have.
“The good thing we have with our cameras that we went with already fit with the cameras that are in our cars, so they download at the same time, we can use the same servers, so it’s an easy way to baby step in,” Roberson said.
Though Roberson believes body cameras to be a positive move for Chatham County, he says there are still concerns about when officers will turn body cameras on and privacy for both officers and the public.
“We need to make sure that we’re not violating privacy rights when we go into people’s houses, and conditions that people’s houses are in, or maybe they are upset, or maybe they’re a victim and we’re still running the camera and you know, certain things it may not be best to have in the public,” said Roberson.
Deputies will be unable to keep body cameras on at all times because of the high expenses related to storing and sorting footage.
According to Roberson, deputies will go through training related to the new body cameras.
“Honestly, we look at every use of force situation and every traffic stop is reviewed by a supervisor, so they’ll be training on that of, “hey, you didn’t turn it on here,” or you know, “you need to do a better job in these areas”, so there’ll be on the job training,” said Roberson.
Funding for the body cameras is provided by Chatham County through its Capital Improvement Plan but the Sheriff’s Office is researching grant opportunities to help offset costs.