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Counties await money for body cameras

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Orangeburg Department of Public Safety Sgt. Aaron Pough shows an officer how to turn on his body camera’s battery pack during Thursday’s body camera training.

T&D Region sheriff’s offices had their body camera policies approved ahead of the state’s deadline.

Now Orangeburg and Calhoun counties are awaiting funding for the cameras. Bamberg County officers have had them for seven years.

Bamberg County Sheriff Ed Darnell said the cameras “work too. They’ll either save you or put you in jail.”

Darnell said he is firm believer in officers wearing body cameras.

“They’re the greatest things since the invention of chocolate ice cream. I recommend them for everybody,” he said.

South Carolina lawmakers decided last year that all law enforcement officers will eventually have to wear body cameras, although it has not yet provided funding.

Local agencies were mandated to send body camera policies to the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy for review by last Monday to ensure they meet the guidelines set by the Law Enforcement Training Council.

“We had to mold our policy to be sure to include those guidelines,” Calhoun County Sheriff Thomas Summers said.

Some of guidelines include:

Body cameras must be worn when a uniformed officer arrives at a call for service or initiates any other law enforcement encounter with a member of the public.

The body cameras should not be used to record communication with other police personnel without the permission of the chief executive officer.

Officers should use discretion where there is a victim of rape or sexual assault.

Recordings that are non-investigative, non-arrest and are not part of any internal investigation will be retained no less than 14 days.

Summers says all Calhoun County has to do now is apply for funding for cameras. Once the county receives funding, the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office will be able to place orders for the body cameras.

The Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office is also waiting for funding for body cameras.

The sheriff’s office’s policy was established by combining best possible practices from several different agencies, Sheriff’s Office spokesman Richard Walker said.

Orangeburg Department of Public Safety officers received body cameras and training on Thursday. While city officers were to begin using the cameras on Friday, that has been delayed until March 21 due to the need to increase the department’s bandwidth.

Contact the writer: princess.williams@timesanddemo

crat.com or 803-533-5516.

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