By Debra Moore
If all goes as planned Plumas County Sheriff’s deputies could be wearing body cameras by later this summer.
Sheriff Todd Johns won approval from the Board of Supervisors during the board’s May 3 meeting to proceed with procuring the equipment.
Johns listed several reasons why body cameras would be valuable for his officers and law enforcement in the county: transparency with the public; officer protection; a reduction in litigation; and use as an important tool to assist the District Attorney with prosecutions.
Plumas County would join jurisdictions across the country that have turned to body cameras as a way to aid law enforcement. Additionally, Johns said it would be a tremendous timesaver. For example, if an individual makes any accusations during an arrest, rather than undertaking a time-consuming investigation, officers could turn to the body cam footage as a record of what happened.
Johns has applied for grants to offset the cost of the cameras — roughly $28,000 per year on a five-year contract, but he told the board that he doesn’t want to delay the process while waiting to hear whether the applications are successful. He said there is money in the sheriff’s budget to pay for the initial orders. When asked following the meeting if everyone would be wearing a body cam, including himself, Johns said that’s the goal, but to keep costs down until a grant is secured, just those on patrol would be wearing the cameras. He expects a response on grant funding within the next two to three months, and in the meantime, his office is making the final vendor selection and hopes to sign a contract by June 1.
The two systems that are being considered — Lenslock and Motorola Nightguard —can both be utilized with the new computer system that the sheriff is ordering, which will expedite processing and sharing of the video footage.
Once the equipment arrives, the other factor that could delay implementation would be how long it takes to develop a county policy for the cameras’ use. “I’m hoping that within two months (deputies could be outfitted) but the policy for their use could be held up in County Counsel. We will move it through as quickly as possible,” he said.
Board Chairman Kevin Goss supported the request. “I would imagine the percentage of agencies using these is pretty high,” he said.
The board approved the request unanimously with little discussion.
Reached for comment following the meeting District Attorney David Hollister said the body cams will be a tremendous help during prosecution. “This will help resolve cases,” he said.
The supervisors also approved a number of financial moves to facilitate construction of the new jail. They approved a supplemental budget request of $3. 89 million toward the Capital Improvement Jail Project account; accepted a $1 million RCRC loan for cash flow during construction of the jail; Approved budget transfers of $1.3 million dollars from PILT funds and $594,000 from Fair Fire Camp funds to Jail Project account; and accepted state revenue of $1 million in grant funds, to be awarded pending budget transfer.