Pittsboro, NC – In September 2017, Chatham County Sheriff Mike Roberson announced his plans to implement body cameras for patrol deputies beginning in 2018. Funding for the body cameras is provided by Chatham County through its Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). However, the Sheriff’s Office has pledged to continue researching grant opportunities to help offset costs.
“Body cameras are a natural progression from in-car cameras. Both systems will work together to capture evidence from multiple perspectives,” said Sheriff Mike Roberson. “No officer or system is perfect, but these cameras are a big step towards increasing transparency, accountability, and public trust.”
Unlike smaller agencies that may only need to equip a few officers, the Sheriff’s Office aims to provide training and devices to more than 135 employees over the next three years. Such a large undertaking is not without challenges, but Sheriff Roberson says the ultimate goal is to equip all deputies with cameras, including those who work in the Detention and Justice Centers. The first wave of devices, intended for use by patrol deputies, was officially ordered this week.
“The Sheriff’s Office has been working toward this goal for quite some time,” says Captain Chris Cooper. “We are pleased to receive approval on our request and begin moving forward with implementation.”
However, there is some lingering concern over privacy.
“There is a question of privacy for employees and the general public. At what point will cameras be turned on? When, if ever, should they be turned off?” asks Captain Cooper. “Maintaining and storing large amounts of data is expensive as well as time consuming. If cameras are never turned off, the sheer volume of storage would cause costs to skyrocket.”
“We have drafted new policies in anticipation of this change and continue to refer to N.C. General Statute 15A-202, which outlines the law regarding body camera use by law enforcement,” says Sheriff Mike Roberson. “Now we must train deputies on the use of these devices both functionally and ethically. Body cameras are a new endeavor for us, but we will continue to navigate the challenge together as an agency and a community.”