The use of body cameras for Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office deputies has been approved by the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy.
Law enforcement agencies were required to submit proposals for body camera use by March 7 to the academy. The Sheriff’s Office had its proposal approved Feb. 4, Sheriff P.J. Tanner said Thursday.
The cameras, once provided the S.C. Department of Public Safety, will be turned on at scenes of violent crimes, traffic stops, public disorderly conduct, arrests, situations where use of force is required, when weapons are present or alleged to be present, and other types of calls, according to the Sheriff’s Office’s policy proposal.
Deputies can also turn them on and off at their discretion, depending on the sensitivity of the situation and whether probable cause or suspicion exists.
“There is no obligation to obtain consent from victims or witnesses prior to using the BWC (body-worn cameras) during an interview,” the proposal said. “However, if asked about its use, the deputy will be forthcoming about the use of the BWC. If the citizen objects to being recorded, the deputy will note this on the video end of the recording. The intention to stop recording will be noted by the deputy verbally on the BWC or in a written report.”
Data recorded on the cameras is not public record or protected under the Freedom of Information Act. The public has no right to see the footage.
All media recorded on the cameras will be the property of the Sheriff’s Office and will not be copied or released unless required by law or with Tanner’s consent, according to the proposal.
Capt. Bob Bromage said Friday that the department has not gotten a notification from the state as to when it will get the cameras.
Maj. Florence McCants of the Criminal Justice Academy said the next step is for the Department of Public Safety to work out the funding for the equipment.
The Beaufort Police Department also submitted its body camera policies to the academy, according to Deputy Chief of Police Dale McDorman.
McDorman said the department will not release its proposed policies for the use of the cameras until the academy approves them.
Attempts to reach Port Royal Police Chief Alan Beach and the Bluffton Police Department were unsuccessful.