County sheriff deputies on way to receiving body cameras

The Pierce County Council at its Sept. 8 meeting unanimously approved the first step in adding body-worn cameras for sheriff’s deputies and dash cameras in their vehicles.

Jeff Cox, senior legal analyst for the council, said the “basic thrust” of Ordinance No. 2020-74s is to authorize and deploy body cameras and dashboard cameras to vehicles.

In a presentation, Pierce County Sheriff Department Lt. Rusty Wilder indicated that if funding is approved, getting a contract would take about six months, and implementing body and dash cameras could take up to two years due to training and the addition of new policies and procedures that would cost the county about $9.2 million over the first five years, according to one estimate provided by the department.

That money includes adding seven staff positions exclusively to review body and dash camera footage and one technology position. State law allows for the public to request camera footage subject to certain restrictions, such as footage that violates reasonable expectations of privacy.

“That’s the challenge that public entities that retain these records have to deal with,” Cox said.

Councilmember Derek Young suggested that, given the vastly different jurisdictions of various law enforcement agencies, the state take over records responsibility.

“That would be the cleanest way of doing this,” he said.

The plan for increased transparency via body and dash cameras is meant to benefit everyone.

“It’s about accountability for everyone involved in an incident, including officers, but also, frankly, the public,” Young said.

Plans call for the Sheriff’s Department to come back to the council in the coming months with details on implementation, including whether to start a department-wide program or begin with a pilot program and policies related to that.

In other business, the council passed two companion ordinances to two recent resolutions of intent regarding bond refinancing. Proposal No. 2020-85 will refinance $212 million in par value sewer revenue refunding bonds in two series, estimated to save 13.36 percent and 12.65 percent, respectively, or a total of $40.7 million.

Proposal No. 2020-86 will refinance $13 million in par value limited tax general obligation refunding bonds. The move is estimated to save 12.5 percent or $1.6 million on the 20-year bonds, which are set to mature in August 2029.

The council passed Proposal No. R2020-77, commemorating the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and proclaiming Sept. 11, 2020, as “Patriot Day” in Pierce County.


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