Sheriff’s office deputies and jail personnel will soon have body cams

The flag of Portage County. Michael Indriolo/The Portager

The Portage County Sheriff’s Office made good on a pledge to adopt body cams this summer, purchasing over 150 body and dashboard cameras with plans to deploy them in January. 

Under a contract with Getac Video Solutions, the county bought 124 body cams and 30 in-car video systems to be distributed to road patrol officers and jail personnel. The total cost was $408,917, which was offset by a $250,497 state grant.

The agreement included cloud storage, a warranty, and video management software that tracks who has uploaded and accessed each video. It also allows sheriff’s office personnel and other county agencies, including the county prosecutor, to review videos, Getac Video Solutions architect Darin Powers said.

In June, Powers told commissioners that once the county’s purchase order was generated, it would take about three months for Getac to get the devices onto deputies and into cars.

The county cut the purchase order on Aug. 26, County Administrator Michelle Crombie said. Major Larry Limbert of the sheriff’s office said the cameras arrived about three months ago. 

Limbert said he wants to get the units on officers and into cars as much as anyone else.

“Are we holding back? Absolutely not. Do we want them up and running? We absolutely do,” he said. “It’s just a process. It isn’t like you take it out of the box, plug it in, and it works.”

The body cams, the sheriff’s office’s computer-aided dispatch system, and the dash cams must work in sync, Limbert said. Though he hopes to have the equipment up and running at the beginning of the new year, he said he would learn a more accurate timeline at a Dec. 23 status conference with representatives from the county IT department, Getac and an installer he declined to identify.

Body cams for the sheriff’s office became an urgent issue after an incident earlier this year in which a deputy shot and killed an armed woman in Windham Township who was threatening her neighbor. The deputy was cleared of any wrongdoing, but critical moments of the shooting were not captured on camera, despite promises from Sheriff Bruce Zuchowski that body cams were a priority.

NAACP Communications Chairman Frank Hairston said he learned about the cameras sitting in storage during a meeting at the sheriff’s office on Dec. 20 to discuss a recent traffic stop. He said the cameras would have been useful to have.

“The people of Portage County paid for the cameras and want the cameras in,” Hairston said. “Get them in the cars and on the deputies themselves. Those cameras tell a real story, and we need them.”

Though frustrated that the cameras haven’t been installed yet, Hairston said the NAACP is pleased the sheriff’s office delivered on its pledge to buy them.

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Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.