Klickitat County Sheriff’s deputies wear all kinds of gear on their person when they perform their duties — including handcuffs, self-defense tools, a sidearm, and note-taking equipment. One item they lack that has become more common among law enforcement agencies in recent years are body cameras. Sheriff Bob Songer is looking to change that, he told the Board of County Commissioners last Tuesday.
Songer told commissioners he is having staff perform research on police-grade body cameras, or bodycams for short, in order to request a future purchase of the recording devices to provide law enforcement agents within the department with the gear.
Songer said he wants to outfit all 19 sworn personnel — including deputies and jailers — with the equipment.
Songer said body cameras document conduct on both sides of an encounter, and said he believes the use of the equipment would ensure that the officer’s actions, during the course of an investigation, are “covered and professional.
“In light of what’s occurred through our country … It’s important that we have transparency,” Songer said.
It would also save the department time investigating any complaints, Songer said.
The agency has not yet narrowed down its search for the right product. Songer said that the cost to run a body camera program would be “substantial.”
A KING 5 survey conducted last year investigating how common bodycams are among law enforcement agencies in Washington found that sheriff offices cited financial barriers as the primary reason why their agency had not yet invested in the technology.
Songer told Columbia Gorge News that cost is no longer a primary concern, although the purchase would have to be approved by county commissioners. The concern now, for him, is upgrading the data storage required of the recording devices.
“It’s a necessary thing at this point in time,” Songer said.
The sheriff’s office will not be the first law enforcement agency in Klickitat County to acquire bodycams. The Bingen-White Salmon Police Department has six bodycams — enough for each officer at the department — but the devices are locked up in storage for the time being.