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Safety: Sheriff’s office tests body cameras

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A bill filed in the state Senate last week would require all state and local law enforcement officers to wear body cameras. The Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office already has four that it is testing, Sheriff’ Lane Cribb said.

“I’m not against it,” he said. His principal concern is who will pay for the cameras. The bill doesn’t say. “That’s going to be the problem for a lot of agencies,” Cribb said. The ones the sheriff’s office is looking at cost about $400 each.

Although the push for body cameras grew after the August shooting of an unarmed teenager by an officer in Ferguson, Mo., the idea isn’t new.

A Georgetown County deputy was on leave for four months after he shot and killed a woman in Litchfield in July. She charged at him with a knife. “I would have liked to have had them that day,” Cribb said of the cameras, though he wasn’t sure if they would have shortened the time it took for the State Law Enforcement Division to investigate and for the solicitor’s office to find no criminal wrongdoing by the deputy.

The cameras are seen as a way to provide oversight of officers, but Cribb said that they will also be useful in providing evidence, just like the dashboard cameras in patrol cars. “My feeling is that it’s to watch over the officers,” he said. “It’s bad that it’s getting that way.”

But video is essential to making drunken driving cases, Cribb said, and body cameras would extend the range of video evidence. The Senate bill would require officers to record “all contacts, from beginning to end, with persons” in the performance of their duties.

The sheriff’s office has used dashboard video to take disciplinary action against deputies, Cribb said. He also noted “any officer who doesn’t want a camera, you might say he’s not going to do the right thing.”

But the cameras pose another problem, he said. “The problem is the mistrust is going to lead to, in my opinion, us not being able to find people who want to go to work and put up with that,” Cribb said.

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