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17 West Virginia County Deputies Get Body-Worn Cameras

Sheriff’s deputies in Kanawha County, W.Va., donned body-worn cameras Wednesday as part of a $3 million county program. All 106 deputies in the county will get the devices, along with in-car cameras by early June.

Axon body camera on a police officer
(TNS) — More than a dozen Kanawha County Sheriff’s deputies have a new on-the-job tool they’ll use for the first time on Thursday.

The 17 deputies — most of them serving on high-visibility road patrols — were each trained on and assigned individual body cameras, roughly the size of a cellphone, as the department rolled out the first phase of its new body-worn camera program on Wednesday.

The new cameras are the result of a project that began in March of 2022, said Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Joe Crawford at a news conference Wednesday. The shiny black boxes are about the size of a cell phone and can serve as a deterrent that improves transparency for law enforcement and the public, as well as provides additional evidence for the prosecutor’s office in potentially criminal cases, he added.

“It’s an investment we believe is vitally important, and it does a lot of things,” Crawford said. “We were also able to upgrade our tasers in this package as well so that may have been a little cost savings to taxpayers,” he added.

As part of a $3 million program approved in October by the Kanawha County Commission, Crawford said all 106 deputies should be assigned and trained on the new cameras in the coming weeks. Upgraded, in-car cameras will be installed by early June in all patrol cars.

Crawford said that officers can turn the recorders on manually, but in high-stress situations when any officer pulls out a gun or taser, all of the cameras in a roughly 30-foot radius will begin recording automatically.

Some officers were initially resistant about wearing body cameras.

“It’s human nature to be apprehensive. However, I believe that almost every officer — after wearing the cameras — it becomes part of their uniform and a tool that they [will not] want to work without,” said Matt Johnson, who is training officers on the new cameras, manufactured by Axon.

As part of the overall technology package, the KCSO is also asking for public feedback through a new online community survey. It allows the public to express concerns, detail positive or negative interaction with officers or report information about criminal activity anonymously or by providing their contact information for follow-up. By entering just their zip codes, officers can track crime trends and adjust patrols as needed, Crawford said.

©2024 The Charleston Gazette, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.