The county’s needs are many, and the funding limited, as the Bartholomew County Council prepares for its 2018 budget hearings, which begin in August.

The county council is obtaining spending requests from all departments, but has already identified three matters as pressing needs:

  • Extra courthouse security and staff requested by judges
  • Rebuilding of the county’s information technology staff
  • Paying for new expenses brought on by the state’s mandate that local jails house all low-level felons

Add to the list a request by the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department to purchase body-worn cameras that record interactions between police and the public during investigations and arrests. The resulting video footage can be used to verify accounts of events.

A request to purchase 35 Axson body cameras made by Taser International was made to the council recently. The request also included unlimited video storage, related accessories and services, and 35 replacement stun guns at a cost of $248,393 over five years.

The Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department previously asked for 30 Motorola body cameras at a cost of about $211,860, and part of a larger $550,000 request including new radios, during 2017 county budget hearings. That proposal was ultimately tabled due to glitches found during testing of the body cameras.

Council members don’t seem eager to stake on new expenditures, however, despite the savings.

Some county officials have questioned whether now is the appropriate time is to invest in body-worn cameras, because better and less expensive technology could be around the corner. This is an issue that can’t be kicked down the road forever, though.

Better technology at lower prices always looms on the horizon, and not just for body-worn cameras. The what-if game can’t be played forever.

Body-worn cameras are valuable tools for recording incidents and verifying accounts of what happened. That’s important because the actions of law enforcement are under greater scrutiny than ever.

Residents need to be able to trust police, and believe that their actions are correct. Having videos from body-worn cameras provides needed transparency by police to show that they are working to make the community and its residents safer.

Columbus Police Department’s officers use body-worn cameras. Sheriff’s deputies need to be using them, too, so all local law enforcement officers are providing greater transparency.

When the county council makes its final budget decisions, body-worn cameras need to be on the high-priority list.