New Payne County Sheriff Kevin Woodward is set to be sworn in this week, and one of his goals as sheriff is to have in-car cameras and body-worn cams for all deputies.

“We’re looking into purchasing body cameras for everybody,” Woodward told the Perkins Journal. “It’s all about budget. It would be $42,000 approximately. I hope this year, but probably it will take three to five years.”

While it may take a few years to accomplish this, the benefits of all officers having body-worn cameras are numerous. It likely will help improve officer safety and department transparency, as well as increase the evidence gathering process for officers for a given crime.

The following are a few highlights from a 2016 study by the U.S. Department of Justice on body-worn cameras.

• In 2016, 47% of general-purpose law enforcement agencies in the United States had acquired body-worn cameras (BWCs).

• The main reasons (about 80% each) that local police and sheriffs’ offices had acquired BWCs were to improve officer safety, increase evidence quality, reduce civilian complaints, and reduce agency liability.

• Among agencies that had acquired BWCs, 60% of local police departments and 49% of sheriffs’ offices had fully deployed their BWCs.

• About 86% of general-purpose law enforcement agencies that had acquired BWCs had a formal BWC policy.

• About 60% of law enforcement agencies allowed the officer who made the recording to have direct access to the footage.

• Among agencies that had not acquired BWCs, the primary reason given was costs, including video storage/disposal costs (77%), hardware costs (74%), and ongoing maintenance/support costs (73%).

If the Payne County Sheriff’s Department is able to enact its goal of having each deputy wearing body cameras, it will bring many positives to the department and to the public as a whole. It will help with clarity over how a crime plays out, and brings numerous safety benefits to both the public and the force. The goal to have body-worn cameras is a smart one, and it’s a cost the County should be willing to absorb for officer safety.

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