Oconee County Approves Body Cams for Sheriff’s Office

WATKINSVILLE — The plans for the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office to use body cams is moving forward.

The board of commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday night to approve the funding request for Motorola MW810s and VieVu cameras. The office will order 45 body cameras, according to its contract with Motorola.

Grady Newsource reporter Kendall Trammell is looking into the role cameras play in the community.

Videos like the black man in South Carolina being shot by a police officer multiple times is one example of the growing importance of cameras. Whether it’s from a cell phone or a digital camera, video can help protect police officers’ rights, and they can also tell the true story.

Captain Jimmy Williams, the office’s communications chief, says this technology can improve deputies’ efficiency as well as public safety.

This equipment will allow deputies to write reports from their cars and keeps them out in the neighborhoods, instead of driving back to the sheriff’s office to do so. There also are tag readers that will go on the vehicles and can notify the deputies about possible suspects of crimes in the vehicles.

“The deputy is driving through a parking lot, and it will actually notify him that if a vehicle is stolen or if somebody’s got a fugitive felony warrant on him,” Williams said. “So it will actually notify that deputy that has the equipment in his vehicle that that is a possible suspect in that vehicle.”

While demoing the cameras, the OCSO caught two people who were transacting credit card frauds throughout the state of Georgia.

Williams says the department will rely on Verizon to push that data back and forth between the deputies and the office.

The Force Science Institute, which is working with Oconee County, says there are several limitations of body cameras. A camera may encourage second-guessing. It also may see better than you do in low light. Some important danger cues — like touch — can’t be recorded.

University of Georgia professor Brian Williams studies policing and criminal justice. He says these limitations can be resolved with the proper policy.

“I think that’s how it’s really important to create this model policies,” Williams said. “When should they be used? How should they be used? But also to share with the public those model policies. I think the more information the public has, that they understand about, the better.”