Routt County commissioners approved body cams for sheriff’s deputies
Steamboat Springs — The Board of Routt County Commissioners voted unanimously Jan. 3 to approve the $101,497 purchase of 17 body evidence cameras and related technology for use by the Routt County Sheriff’s Office.
The purchase was previously approved in the county’s 2017 budget, and the contract includes a five-year maintenance contract and software licenses from Taser International. The cost will be spread over five years.
Sheriff Garrett Wiggins said when his department first began looking into body cams, it was expected that data downloaded from the cameras would be stored in his office on a locally maintained server. The contract with Taser calls for data to be automatically stored “in the cloud.”
The sheriff was also concerned that early adopters of body cams would be confronted with legal entanglements.
“We didn’t jump on the bandwagon to begin with because there were a lot of legal issues to be addressed,” Wiggins told Steamboat Today. “We (preferred) to let other agencies be the guinea pigs. The legal issues are still abundant, they’re not all clarified, but I think it’s getting to the point that there’s enough policy and procedures that cover most issues and concerns with recording certain types of information.”
Although his department has used dashboard cameras on some of its patrol vehicles for a number of years, Wiggins said he wanted to wait until some of the technology with body cams and the amount of data they can generate had also evolved.
“The technology is to the point, compared to when we were first talking about getting cameras, that the manpower needed to architect and redact certain information,” is far less time-consuming, Wiggins said.
However, information the sheriff’s office supplied through purchasing agent Marti Hamilton indicates that the work associated with employing body cams for sheriff’s deputy’s only begins with using them in the field.
Once a deputy’s daily shift is done, the data in each camera must be downloaded and catalogued for legal discovery. The system also eliminates the need to burn CDs for attorneys.
Using the Taser system, the deputies will be able to place the camera into a portal at the end of a shift for downloading into a cloud-based server for labeling and retrieval when necessary. The alternative is for sheriff’s office staff to do that work manually while seated at a computer.
The system also has the capacity to save other digital media, including photographic evidence.
Neither Wiggins nor Undersheriff Ray Birch were present at the hearing where the commissioners approved the purchase, and County Commissioner Doug Monger said although he would vote in favor of approving the purchase of the Taser system, he still wants to meet with the sheriff to learn more about its use.
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Steamboat Springs is expected to finish off July with slightly more precipitation than in previous years.