Funding issues for law enforcement body cams

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - There's a state law requiring body cameras be used by law enforcement, but not all agencies are equipped.

The Richland County Sheriff's Department, Lexington County Sheriff's Department and Newberry County Sheriff's Office don't have them yet because they say they can't afford them.

"It's a very difficult position to be in when the public expects something and we can't meet that expectation because of a lack of funds," Jarrod Bruder with the South Carolina Sheriff's Association said.

The Sheriff's Association calls it an "unfunded mandate," hoping the State can pay more for what's considered a transparency tool. Otherwise, they say it puts law enforcement in a tough spot competing for the $5.8 million the state has put aside to help agencies.

The State has handed out some money - $132,000 to Richland County, $67,500 to Lexington County and $118,000 to Newberry - but Bruder says that's not nearly enough.

"We understand the public expectation but we're also faced with reality, that the purchase of body cameras may mean that we don't have the officers that we need to respond in the first place. The purchase of body cameras may mean that we don't have the equipment, the other equipment that we need, to respond properly," Bruder explained.

Sheriff Lee Foster is hoping local governments will find a way to pay the rest.

"With the nature of the world right now, it's probably a good thing if the local government would finish," Sheriff Foster said.

"If they deem it a priority when we're having these types of chaotic events and public outcry, those types of things, we can't forget that when it comes budget time," Bruder said.

State Senator Vincent Sheheen says he will work to get more funds to body cams, but it's a steep battle and politics can be slow-moving.

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