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Supervisors discuss public funding, research of body cameras for Augusta County deputies

Published: May. 25, 2022 at 11:29 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - It does not appear voters in Augusta County will have the opportunity to vote in November on if they feel the county should purchase body cameras for the county’s deputies.

At the Augusta County Board of Supervisors meeting on May 11, supervisor Scott Seaton made a motion to ask the county attorney to find out if voters can do a referendum on the ballot in this year’s general election in November. The motion was ultimately tabled.

However, during the latest meeting on May 25, the item was not listed on the agenda and Seaton explained why.

Seaton read aloud a memo sent to him which states the county’s attorney said it would not be possible.

“There must exist a specific grant of legislative authority to localities with regard to the subject matter of the referendum and there must exist a specific legislative grant authorizing the holding of an advisory referendum,” Seaton read from the memo. “His (the county attorney) legal research has revealed no authority which would allow the board to hold an advisory referendum on the issue of funding and or purchase of body cameras for local law enforcement.”

Seaton said a piece of proposed legislation -- which may have helped his case -- was tabled in the House of Delegates this year. He added the advisory referendum he was interested in seeking could not happen at this time, but maybe in the future.

But as the meeting progressed, Seaton made more motions surrounding the topic of body cameras.

One motion would allow the public to donate to a capital account controlled by the county with funds being saved for body cameras once Augusta County Sheriff Donald Smith came back to the board with recommendations for the gear.

Another motion Seaton made would explore and research any grants available to fund the body cameras for the county.

Both motions passed by a majority of the board.

The debate over body cameras began in 2021 after two deputy-involved shootings, including one death, involving the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office in 2021.

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