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Search for the right body camera continues in Augusta County

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 5:07 PM EST
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - The Augusta County Sheriff’s Office is still in pursuit of the right body camera.

The search comes after multiple protests and calls for change. The conversations started in May, and some protests in Verona and Staunton kept the debate hot on everyone’s mind.

“It was a concern when we had the two officer-involved shootings that we had. It was a concern to some people that we needed to look at this and get this implemented,” said Augusta County Sheriff Donald Smith.

He said once a decision is made, it needs to be the right one. The process is taking months because he wants to really consider the options.

“It’s a very important decision, and that’s why I didn’t go off halfcocked,” Smith said.

The sheriff’s office chose to evaluate four vendors, and they’ve just installed the fourth.

“We put [the cameras] on [deputies] for six weeks, try them out and see what are the pros, what are the cons of the system,” he said.

Smith said they would have liked to have the process done by now, but the lack of Wi-Fi and cell service throughout Augusta County created some hurdles.

“The technology difficulties that we have in the county, which I anticipated were going to happen, have happened, so we’ve had to work through those,” he said.

So far, he said the three evaluated options are good. Each have both pros and cons.

“I think that any of them would be satisfactory,” Smith said. “The storage and interface in behind them is equally important to me as the camera itself.”

Augusta County faces unique challenges, Smith said, given its size and the fact that some of the county is without cell service. On top of the technological challenges, it is a very expensive endeavor.

“It’s going to be very expensive lift for the county and the state to try to come up with the funds for what we’re going to try to do,” Smith said.

The study comes after protests calling for body cameras went on for months, and the Board of Supervisors asked the Sheriff’s Office to look into vendor options.

“I was asked to get the data. I was asked to bring this stuff to them, and that’s what I fully intend to do,” Smith said.

He said he knows why body cameras are important, but he wants everyone to understand they aren’t his priority.

“My radio system is number one priority. Getting my vehicle fleet, which the county is working with me on, and getting better wages for my deputies. Those are my priorities,” Smith said.

He said they’ll finish evaluating the fourth vendor, then they’ll put the information together and present it to the Board of Supervisors.

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