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Grady County Sheriff Harry Young has agreed to settle for three new vehicles annually rather than four in order to free up public funds to finance the purchase of new Tasers and body cameras for his office.
The sheriff and members of his staff, Abby Hall and Daniel Singletary, appeared before the county commission to justify the request for the new equipment, valued at over $250,000.
According to Hall, five of the Sheriff’s Office in-car cameras are in need of repairs that cost approximately $6,000 each. She made the case for equipping Sheriff’s Office personnel with body cameras.
Hall said that in year’s past an officer’s word was “gold,” but today, “officers are questioned to the ninth degree.” She said officers need the body cameras to have a record of what actually happens when law enforcement officers come in contact and deal with citizens.
“We are asking for a lot of money and we realize that,” she said, however, Hall said the sheriff and his office were willing to sacrifice and eliminate the request of one additional vehicle each year for the next five years. According to her, that would cover the cost of the purchase of the new Tasers and body cams.
The lease to own agreement is with Taser International.
Hall also said that she will be completing advanced training in August and she would be able to conduct the training for her fellow officers annually, which would reduce the travel and training budget line items in the budget for the Sheriff’s Office.
By equipping deputies with new Tasers, Lt. Hall said the cost of medical expenses, workers compensation and overtime could likely be reduced. She noted that the addition of body cameras could also reduce the county’s expense in lawsuits. Singletary said that the Tasers currently used by deputies would be passed down to jailers to assist with their response to problems with unruly inmates.
“One lawsuit and you can pay for this. These cameras will make the difference in winning or losing a lawsuit,” Commissioner Ray Prince said Tuesday night.
Sheriff Young said that the county had settled with a couple recently for $75,000 relating to an accident involving a sheriff’s vehicle. According to the sheriff, if the in-car camera had been operational the county could have successfully challenged the lawsuit and not had to pay a settlement.
“You’ve got to have a safe community,” Commissioner Prince said.
Grady County Commission Chairwoman LaFaye Copeland said that anything that would prevent lawsuits and reduce hospitalization and medical expenses she was strongly in favor of.
Commissioner Phillip Drew noted that the Tasers and body cams provide additional protection for local law enforcement officers. “It’s protection of everybody,” Drew said.
By committing to the lease to own program now rather than waiting until 2020, the county earned discounts and credits bringing the total cost to $200,954.54, with $20,000 being paid immediately. The new equipment will be shipped and put into use as soon as possible rather than delayed until next year.
In other business Tuesday night, the board:
Heard a report from the county administrator that a variance to the county’s land use regulations applied for by Raymond Woods, owner of Michigan Motor Cross d.b.a. Georgia Practice Facility had been withdrawn. Woods had been planning a special motocross event in October to raise scholarships for motocross riders to use for college or to attend trade school. A new application will be submitted with the revised event dates of Nov. 1, 2, and 3. Another public hearing on the variance to the regulations, hours of operation restrictions, as well as noise level requirements will be advertised and held next month.
Approved payment of $18,625 to county auditor Perry Henry for work on the 2018 audit. Henry anticipates completing and submitting the audit by June 30, but will not present his audit report to the board until next month. The total cost of the audit fee from 2018 is $41,250 of which $11,797.50 was paid in February. According to Johnson, a balance of $10,827.50 will be due once the $18,625 progress invoice has been paid.
Unanimously approved and authorized Chairwoman Copeland to execute the memorandum of understanding with the City of Albany for a master switch for communications services through Decatur-Grady 911. According to the county administrator, the county’s cost is approximately $9,000 less than budgeted.