At the most recent session of the Erie County Legislature, the contract to approve Axon as the official vendor for the Erie County Sheriff’s office newly instituted body camera program was approved unanimously after a 4 month process with prospective contractors. An amendment to the original resolution was included to request money spent on Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests be redirected to funding the body camera program in perpetuity.
After contentious debates regarding the need for body camera use in the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, the Legislature approved $600,000 during the mid-year budget balancing amendment process to fund the initiative as Sheriff Howard refused to request funding be available in his own mid-year budget request, citing other priorities as taking precedence.
The original plan submitted for approval by the Sheriff’s Office required a $10 fee for document preparation. As costs can be a barrier but are warranted by law, Chairwoman April Baskin introduced an amendment to make sure that costs incurred are still aimed at helping community members or family in need of footage for their own purposes by supporting the program.
“I am thrilled that the entire Legislature has agreed with me that accountability and transparency is a priority for the taxpayers of Erie County. Working with the Department of Information and Support Services (DISS) and the office of the Sheriff, the Legislature appropriated a more than adequate amount of funding to support this program and even exceed just funding cameras for road deputies,” said Chair Baskin.
Axon, the company who submitted the winning Request for Proposal (RFP), is the same company used by the City of Buffalo body camera program and by several other local municipalities. The program would be expected to be implemented by the beginning of 2020 according to the Sheriff’s Office and will be comprised of more than 200 cameras including back-ups at multiple Sheriff Substations. Officers stationed in the Rath Building, in the Erie County Holding Center, at the County jail facility in Alden, and on road patrol will wear the cameras during their shifts.
“I’d like to also thank Public Safety Committee Chair Legislator Howard Johnson for seeing this process through in an effective manner. We have had multiple discussions in committee that have served this purpose and our shared mission well. I count this as a huge step toward victory in the fight for county-wide criminal justice reforms,” said Chair Baskin.
Next steps include awaiting a contract currently being negotiated by the Erie County Sheriff’s PBA and the Sheriff’s office, which details proposed body camera operations and protocol. The Sheriff will also present his budget requests for 2020 to the Legislature for tentative approval in early December.