RIO GRANDE COUNTY- Rio Grande County Sheriff Don McDonald met with Rio Grande County Commissioners Wednesday, July 29, to give an update on the department as well as speak to the board about possible companies who will provide the new body cameras from recently passed Senate Bill 217, or more commonly known as the Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity Bill.
For many small law enforcement departments across the state, finding law enforcement approved companies to provide the new bodycam equipment required by the unfunded mandate has been a daunting task and Rio Grande County Sheriff’s Department has not been an exception but they have found a potential company that would only charge a third of the originally estimated cost.
According to McDonald, with the help of new Undersheriff Chris Crown, they have found a company that can provide the bodycam equipment needed through smartphone technology. “It actually works out great because we already carry smartphones while on duty. We will carry an additional phone that will serve as the equipment we need for the bodycam footage that is required through this unfunded mandate. We estimate that it will cost the department about a third of the cost other companies were quoting us.”
McDonald also stating that some of the other companies were also requiring a five-year contract with the purchase of the equipment, but that Visual Labs only required a year to year contract. “This is more manageable because if we don’t like it or it doesn’t meet our needs, we don’t have to pay even more to break a five-year contract. We can go year to year with Visual Labs.”
McDonald stated that he would have to have the equipment needed and a plan for storage by 2023. “What most people are not considering with this unfunded mandate is that we also have to pay to hire an additional staff member who will be in charge of organizing and matching the audio to footage and categorizing it before sending it to storage. This will have to be a professional technologically familiar position and will have to paid from our budget.”
The sheriff continued, “One of the other things we have to do is retain video footage of the jail and keep it for up to two years. That is expensive and once again something that will have to be budgeted. We have vehicles that are falling apart and other things that should take more precedence, but we have to be ready for this deadline or we won’t be in compliance with SB-217. As I have stated before, I have no problem with being transparent, but they should have considered the financial strain they put on small departments when they pass down these unfunded mandates.”
McDonald stated that he and his department will begin looking at the budget for 2021 in upcoming days and start the process of figuring out when and how to afford the mandate.