Funding for body cameras proving to be a struggle in SC

(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)

HARDEEVILLE, SC (WTOC) - A shortfall in grant money for a state mandate in South Carolina is straining the budgets of a lot of cities and counties.

State law requires all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras. The task to outfit them is proving to be easier said than done though.

It's not a one-time expense. The maintenance, storage and upkeep on the cameras require a lot of money every year.

Dexter Nease has lived in Hardeeville since the 1950's. He remembers when this vacant lot on Main Street housed the city's police department.

"Had a fire truck and police man up in there and that was it," Nease said.

As the one stop light town grew, so too did the need for a robust police force.

"Of course we needed more policemen. There's more demand for them, and crime is different now than it was back then," Nease said.

Fighting that crime costs money. The department now has 20 full-time officers. The effort to equip them with the best technology is not a cheap task. The body cameras are just one of those expenses. The department outfitted every officer several years ago for transparency.

"It also protects the citizens and my police officers. That's the reason it's important for us to have body cameras," said Hardeeville Police Chief Sam Woodward.

South Carolina lawmakers agreed and mandated the use of them two years ago. Now, the money they're offering doesn't cover the cost for departments like Hardeeville.

"This goes on every year. It doesn't stop the first year or the second year. It keeps on going and the cost of storage and technology keeps going up to," Chief Woodward said.

Last year, the department requested $24,000 from the state to help pay for that. They only received half of that.

"That went out last year. We spent that right quick with the storage so again it's a battle that we face every year," Chief Woodward said.

The other $12,000 came out of the city budget.

"Every penny, every dollar is important to us. We have to analyze how it's being spent and be as wise as we possibly can," said Hardeeville Mayor Harry Williams.

This problem isn't unique to Hardeeville. Statewide, departments requested $8.8 million to fund cameras. The state only awarded a quarter of that.

"Whatever grant monies are available, we think that that should be made available to the state mandated programs so that the municipalities can offset some of that cost," said Williams.

It's a cost taxpayers - like Nease - are funding now for technology they have no choice to have.

Here's proof how fast that technology is changing. While we sat with the chief, a company was at the department showing them new cameras. They're necessary, yes, but they come with a price that likely will not get cheaper.

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