A little more talk, a little less action on body cameras for sheriff's deputies

Jul 12, 2019

Body cameras for Erie County deputy sheriffs are moving closer to reality, with bids in Wednesday to supply the cameras and the computer capacity to make the system work.

Sheriff Timothy Howard wants the money for the project, currently around $600,000, transferred to his budget and out of the county's IT budget. Legislature Chair April Baskin said that may happen, but she wants it discussed in committee first.

"What we're doing is we're moving forward. It's the responsible thing to do," Baskin said. "There's no reason to hastily switch those funds today but, when it comes to do it, we'll do it in a responsible way with all the stakeholders at the table. We'll make the best decision with the taxpayers' dollars."

The chair said the time spent on the body camera debate means there will be a lot more known about how they operate, how much they cost and what the benefits are of the cameras.

Members of the Legislature's Minority Caucus wanted a vote Thursday. Minority Leader Joe Lorigo said sending the issue to committee just delays getting the cameras into service. Lorigo also said politics in this election year are slowing the process toward more transparency in law enforcement.

"This same goes for law enforcement," he said. "I know there are issues with regard to whether or not the body cameras capture everything the way an officer would actually see it, but those are things that need to be discussed and when there are issues and can be hashed out in the court of law. The fact of the matter is the body cameras will create transparency. We're trying to get it done and, unfortunately, the Democratic majority is holding it up."