Last updated: April 17. 2014 10:23AM - 465 Views
Karen Kissiah kkissiah@civitasmedia.com

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Body cameras will be the newest thing for the Cheraw Police Department.

Interim Police Chief Keith Thomas asked members of Cheraw Town Council Tuesday evening to allow him to make some changes to the department’s budget so that nine body cameras for officers can be purchased.

The Cheravian Club has already raised $3,400 for the department, along with a $2,000 grant from the Municipal Association, said Thomas.

Thomas explained that earlier this year money was set aside to make improvements to the police department’s temporary animal shelter. The plan was to do half of the project this year, and half from next year’s budget. However, because of problems with drainage from the roof, the current plan cannot be done in separate stages.

Thomas’ request was to postpone renovations to the animal shelter and apply that money, another $2,465, towards the purchase of the body cameras. The cameras, which normally sell for $1,299 each, will be on sale for $499 until the end of June.

Council agreed to allow the purchase.

“The benefits of the body camera far outweigh any negative aspects,” said Thomas. “Unfortunately, an officer’s word is not golden anymore. These cameras will provide an accurate depiction of what took place.”

When each shift is over, Thomas said the video will be automatically downloaded and sent to Arizona for storage.

Without these cameras, complaints from residents about an officer’s behavior can take up to two weeks to clear, said Thomas.

“To pull up these videos will take about two seconds,” Thomas said.

Darlington County already has this technology in place, he said, “and their complaint rate has gone to zero.”

Not only will the cameras record what’s happening, in the event an officer has arrived to a call without the camera running, he or she can press the on button and the camera will have recorded the previous 30 seconds.

Cheraw Town Council members passed the second and final reading Tuesday evening of an ordinance that prohibits the consumption of, or selling of, beer wine, liquor, or other intoxicating beverages on public property with the town of Cheraw. The only exception to the ruling will be at the Cheraw Community Center, where it will be allowed with temporary ABC permits for the town’s summer concert series.

Cheraw Town Councilman Fred Harris was the only member of council to question the ordinance and to vote against.

Harris raised the question of hosting various events, possibly through the Cheraw Arts Commission or the Greater Cheraw Chamber of Commerce. Harris said many of the parks in town, and especially the Town Green, “are ideal places to showcase the town.”

Harris suggested the ordinance be amended to provide an avenue for those sort of events to take place. However, the vote was taken and the ordinance approved 5 to 1. Councilman Randy Butler was not present for the vote.

Cheraw Mayor Andy Ingram told Harris if he wanted to bring the issue before council for another vote, the ordinance could be amended in the future.

— Karen Kissiah can be reached at 843-537-5261.

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