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Battle over police body cameras for Erie County Sheriff's deputies is back on the front burner

Posted at 6:16 PM, Apr 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-03 13:57:16-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Buffalo Police Department has been using body cameras since March seventh.

The Erie County Sheriff's Department has yet to obtain body cams, they say, due to a lack of funding.

"It's really up to us to find the funding for the sheriff to be able to implement them, and nobody knows the budget better than our budget director and the budget office," said Erie County legislator Joe Lorigo. "So I asked them to look for funding so that we could possibly implement body cameras in the future."

Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard has repeatedly said publicly, he is willing to implement body cameras if funding is available.

"The position of the sheriff is, in his opinion, it's not on his top of the priority list," said Chief Scott Joslyn with the Erie County Sheriff's Department.

Sheriff Howard has said funds would be better spent on a new helicopter, and a full time SWAT team.

But if funding is made available, he'll work with the Public Safety Committee to bring in body cameras.

Because it's going to be an expensive endeavor to categorize, log and save the video, which is considered evidence.

The price tag? Chief Joslyn said it's more than one million dollars.

There was a pilot program for body cameras in the department in 2017.

Chief Joslyn said there were 13 deputies who volunteered to wear body cameras for 12 months.

During that time a bloody arrest outside New Era Field was captured, renewing the debate over the importance of video evidence.

The head of the Public Safety Committee, legislator April Baskin, has asked for footage on additional alleged use of force incidents, other than the incident outside New Era Field.

Baskin said he hasn't gotten a response yet from the Sheriff's Office.

She added that given the $31 million budget for police services, it's unfortunate that Sheriff Howard has not made body cameras a priority.

Sheriff Howard has said that if given the money, he would implement a body cam program, the exception however is that it doesn't slow down or derail efforts bring in s helicopter or a SWAT team.