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Battle over Erie County Sheriff's Office body cameras

Posted at 6:36 PM, Jul 11, 2019

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — It's not an issue of if the Erie County Sheriff's Office will get body cameras, it's an issue of when, and who will be responsible for the purchase.

In May the Erie County Legislature unanimously approved $600,000 for the purchase of body cameras for the Sheriff's office, but now the Sheriff's office says the legislature will not directly transfer that money to them. Instead, the legislature wants the money to be filtered through the Division of Information and Support Services for the county, and then, through that the money will be available for the Sheriff's Office use.

"They've transferred money to us in the past to buy ballistic vests, to buy cameras for the jails, to buy medical supplies," said Erie County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Scott Zylka. "This isn't a unique situation."

Zylka says the Sheriff's Office has completed its request for proposal for body camera companies. They want to start buying the cameras as soon as possible, and create a position for a body camera supervisor. They say this person will be in charge of training and preserving the body camera evidence.

Erie County Legislature Chairwoman April Baskin says the intention all along has been for the Sheriff's Office to work with DISS on the project.

"The purchase is not going to happen today, therefore the money doesn't have to be transferred today," Baskin said. "The Sheriff would like to do the purchasing himself. I'm not against having a discussion about that, all I'm asking is before we hastily transfer the funds, we get all the stakeholders together and talk about how we are going to responsibly move forward and make this purchase."

The Sheriff's Office tells me there's no reason to have another agency involved in buying the cameras, because the body camera program is that of the Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff Howard would like to choose a vendor by the end of August, and start using these cameras in October.