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Augusta County Sheriff’s Office evaluating body camera options

Published: Aug. 6, 2021 at 4:12 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - Protesters in Augusta County have been demonstrating for about 80 days, demanding body cameras.

Sheriff Donald Smith announced Thursday, August 5 the Sheriff’s Office is evaluating body camera vendors. He says he hopes the study will be done in September.

Body Cam protesters wave a flag on June 28 at the Government Center. (WHSV)
Body Cam protesters wave a flag on June 28 at the Government Center. (WHSV)(WHSV)

In the statement, the sheriff said, “The aim of this study is to discover which platform works best for the unique circumstances of our locality.”

However, Smith says body cameras still aren’t his priority. He says he needs a new radio system and better pay for his officers.

Smith says when he approaches the Board of Supervisors with his findings, he will talk to them about his other needs.

President of Black Lives Matter Shenandoah Valley and protest organizer Antwhon Suiter says he was at a protest when he heard about the announcement.

“It caught me off guard. I was very very excited. We’re taking a step forward,” he said.

In the release, Smith says he and Augusta County Commonwealth’s Attorney Timothy Martin will work together. Martin says it’s important to consider what the office needs and what is unique about Augusta County.

“What would work in an urban environment may be very different than what would work in a rural environment,” Martin said.

For example, he says what works in Richmond might not work in Augusta County. While Richmond is well-lit most of the night, Augusta County isn’t. He also says the technological capabilities they have is important.

Martin says many factors must be considered before moving ahead.

“I’d much rather get it done right than get it done early,” he said.

Suiter says he pledged to stop protesting when body cams are pursued, and that’s his plan.

“If I tell somebody I’m going to suspend protesting, I’m going to stop protesting, you know, if the county gets body cams then that’s what I’m going to do,” he said.

“We want to make sure we get the right equipment for us, so just like everything we do, it will be methodical, but with the end goal of having them,” said Martin.

Suiter says seeing yesterday’s announcement reminded him that his voice matters.

“I have a lot of respect for Donald Smith because he’s taking this into consideration,” Suiter said. “It means a lot to me.”

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