Body cameras an important topic in Berkeley Co. sheriff's race

VIDEO: Body cameras an important topic in Berkeley Co. sheriff's race
Published: Apr. 16, 2015 at 11:19 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 17, 2015 at 11:13 PM EDT
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BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - The debate over whether to outfit law enforcement officers with body cameras is overflowing into the Berkeley County sheriff's race.

On Tuesday, voters will cast their ballots for one of 14 candidates running in the Republican primary for Berkeley County Sheriff.

The Sheriff candidates we spoke with today say they support requiring on-duty Deputies to wear body cameras.

Some of the candidates say the county also needs to be mindful of the costs of cameras, which range from 100 to 500 dollars.

Candidate Omar Brown says body cameras are a good idea and a useful tool, but says legislation making its way through the State House needs to be worded to protect both deputies and the people

they serve.

"When you go to a rape scene, you want to protect that victim," Brown said. "If you go to a child molestation scene, you want to protect that child and that child and that victim. So there would

need to be something in the legislation to allow it to be turned on and off."

Brian Adams says he agrees with body cameras but also says it is important to be mindful of the costs.

"Because if they record the entire shift, then we have to pay that storage for all those hours of recording and that's where the cost will be extreme," Adams said.

Chab Clarke agrees that the startup costs for body cameras would be a wise investment for Berkeley County.

"I think body cameras are great idea for one reason: video does not lie," Clarke said.

Berkeley County Chief Deputy Sheriff Rick Ollic, who is also running for Sheriff, said video captured via body cameras can be used as evidence in criminal prosecutions.

"It will capture what the officers are doing during the incidents," Ollic said. "It will also give accurate information of what the incident is and it also protects the deputy and the citizens."

Candidate Marty Housand says he would pledge part of his salary to see it through.

"I clearly stated I am in favor of body cameras," Housand said. "And I also would pledge ten thousand dollars of my salary to help get it started."

Not every Berkeley County Sheriff candidate is fully on board with body cameras.

Candidate Jerry Merrithew said that the total cost of ownership for integrated body cameras, car cameras, and system hardware would exceed $1.3 million. He also says the true costs associated with maintaining and implementing a viable workflow are untold.

"I believe we owe the citizens of Berkeley County the proof that we are currently utilizing every penny of taxpayer dollars efficiently," Merrithew said. He said he favors getting officers back into the community to help rebuild trust and improve response times.

If a Republican candidate doesn't get more than 50 percent of the vote a runoff will be held on May 5.

The winner will face Democratic candidate Anthony Smalls and write-in candidate Derrick Burbage in the general election in June.

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