Forsyth County residents may soon see an additional piece of equipment on deputies’ uniforms throughout the county: body cameras.
The sheriff’s office is currently testing several types of cameras to find the “right fit” before purchasing the equipment, according to Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman.
“We’re definitely headed towards deputies wearing the body cameras, particularly uniform patrol deputies,” he said. “We are testing [one type] of body-worn camera right now, and another company is coming to test another [type] soon. We’re just trying to find the right fit.”
In its 2018 budget request, the sheriff’s office asked for $50,000 for a pilot program to evaluate the cameras.
While the 2018 budget will not be approved until the fall, Freeman said the tests are ongoing.
“We’re looking forward to [the cameras],” he said. “It’s a win-win for the county – both for the citizens and our officers because it adds accountability and additional safety.
“There’s also the potential for [the cameras] to provide additional evidence for our prosecutors.”
Since November 2014 when a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, shot to death Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen, more and more law enforcement agencies throughout the United States have been working toward adding the equipment to their forces.
In September 2015, the Justice Department awarded more than $23 million in grants to 73 agencies as part of then-President Barack Obama’s body-worn camera pilot program.
A year later, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the Justice Department had awarded another $20 million to “to 106 state, city, tribal and municipal law enforcement agencies to establish and enhance law enforcement body-worn camera programs across the United States.”
While law enforcement personnel throughout the country have been both supportive and critical of the equipment, Freeman has consistently said he is a proponent of the cameras.
“In today’s world, it’s just another assurance that we are being professional and doing our jobs the way we should be,” he said. “We’re right in the crux of testing them.”