Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office gets OK to spend $1.5M on body cameras, 200 rifles
Ever been pulled over by a deputy in Santa Rosa County? If it happens in the future, there’s a good chance that deputy will be wearing a body camera.
Santa Rosa County Commissioners on Thursday unanimously approved a request by the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office to spend nearly $1 million of federal CARES Act funds to purchase 200 body cameras for deputies. They also approved procuring 200 new rifles for deputies at a cost of about more than $445,000.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act signed into law in March provided about $22.7 million to the SRSO for its services during the pandemic. According to the Florida Sheriffs Association and its staff, those funds can be used for anything and not just for costs directly related to the pandemic.
Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson and his staff opted to use nearly $1.5 million of CARES Act funds on the new body cameras and rifles, according to county documents.
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The body cameras will be purchased from the Motorola and WatchGuard companies at an estimated $996,570, which covers the costs of hardware components, required software and the cameras' operational expenses for the next five years.
"I'm glad that they got approved obviously," Johnson told the News Journal on Friday. "But through speaking to other sheriffs and other law enforcement agencies, I've been told that the cameras not only improve the officers' behavior — which we don’t have a big problem with right now — but also it helps with some offenders.
"Because if they know that they’re being recorded, everything is going to be played back in court," he continued. "So if they resist arrest, they know that they are going to get found guilty, because it’s a video."
Now that the purchase of cameras has been approved, Johnson and his staff plan to sit down and formulate an agency-wide policy for their implementation.
Starting next week, the sheriff and his staff will pick and choose elements from the body camera policies of other Florida sheriff's to build their rules on how to the new tools will be used.
Johnson said he hopes the cameras will be operational no later than mid-February.
The SRSO will also purchase the 200 new rifles and accessories for an estimated $445,960, according to county documents.
"Being an avid firearms enthusiast, I did take the liberty to do some research on the rifles, the specific model ... . But what the Sheriff's Office is getting is a red-dot sight, some extra magazines and also eight spots in an armorer school for a lot less money than we can go-out for and buy the firearms," said District 5 Commissioner Colten Wright. "It was pretty obvious that they were getting a good deal."
District 1 Commissioner Sam Parker praised the choice to purchase noise suppressers along with the rifles.
"When I read this, I said, 'Two hundred rifles with cans?' he said, expressing his surprise over the sound suppressors, sometimes referred to as "cans."
Parker, who is a veteran, suffers from hearing loss due to past experiences of being in close proximity to weapons fired indoors.
"I think a lot of sort of gun guys look at that as a novelty," Parker said about the suppressers. "But I think that it could go a long way to help save the hearing of, not only those deputies but, anyone else in the buildings. I commend you for asking for it."
Colin Warren-Hicks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-435-8680.