Clay County sheriff says adding body-worn cameras shows commitment to 'transparency and accountability'

CLAY COUNTY, Florida. – Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook said the department is still testing different body-worn cameras to see which one will work best for its deputies.

This comes after the Clay County Sheriff's Office announced in late May that its deputies had begun testing body-worn cameras as part of a pilot program.

Clay County is the last of the region's major sheriff's offices to implement body cameras.

RELATED | Clay County residents believe the sheriff's office's decision to implement body cameras is a step in the right direction.

The Clay County Sheriff's Office recently began testing and evaluating these body cameras to improve transparency, accountability and safety. It's part of a potential $7 million plan to provide cameras to all of its MPs over the next five years.

“Our decision to implement body-worn cameras underscores our unwavering commitment to fostering transparency, accountability and safety within our communities, while increasing the safety of our deputies,” said Sheriff Michelle Cook. “We recognize that this represents a significant capital investment and therefore we are taking a deliberate and systematic approach to ensure that we select the most effective solution for our agency and our community. We are currently seeking grants to offset some of the costs associated with a body-worn camera program.

MORE | Clay County sheriff announces potential $7 million plan to equip all deputies with body-worn cameras

Sheriff Cook said there are a few issues that need to be resolved before adding them.

“Why now? I mean, it's becoming an industry standard, two-thirds of sheriff's offices in the state have them. It's something that's always been on our radar,” Cook said.

Cook said she needed to make sure the department's foundation was strong before adding this technology.

“When I came in 2020, we were still doing paper timesheets,” Cook said. “We needed to ensure we had a full and adequate workforce and that our IT technology could support this effort. »

The Clay County Sheriff's Office has begun researching body cameras and plans to distribute them to all 350 deputies. (Copyright 2024 by WJXT News4JAX – All rights reserved.)

Today, MPs are testing different models to see which one will best suit the ministry.

News4JAX asked Cook about potential protocol in the event of a deputy-involved incident.

“I think it really depends on the incident. You know, I pride myself on being very transparent and responsive. This is new technology for us. So it'll be, you know, baby steps for us. But, you know, I'm very comfortable and releasing what we can when we can. And, you know, I don't think there's going to be a problem. But to say, you know, if something happens tonight at 11 p.m., I'll be able to post it before the end of the day, I can't guarantee that, but we're going to continue to be transparent and responsive to our community,” Cook said.

Cook said he increased his budget by $1.5 million for cameras.

She said they are also applying for grants to help cover some of the costs.

Copyright 2024 by WJXT News4JAX – All rights reserved.

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