The Jacksonville Police Department is moving farther ahead of schedule when it comes to complying with new body camera requirements.
The Jacksonville City Council approved a request by Chief Adam Mefford to allow him to purchase the previously approved cameras Monday night. The cameras had been approved but were not anticipated to be purchased until the next fiscal year after the department was denied grant funding to help offset the costs earlier this year.
Mefford says he had to request permission to purchase the cameras now after his department was invited to reapply for the grant funding a second time.
“My belief was that we didn’t qualify for the grant at the time because they were prioritizing some of the larger agencies. A few months ago we got notified that all of those funds had not been used and there were more left and we were now in the running for that grant money.
They asked us to resubmit our criteria, it was a pretty in-depth application process. We were notified about mid-summer that we had in fact gotten the grant and that we had to supply a little bit more information to seal the deal.”
Mefford says they received confirmation the department had received the full grant award approximately two weeks ago and that council approval was all that was needed. The grant will match up to half of the cost of the cameras, so $58,000 of the $116,000 purchase will be reimbursed to the city.
Mefford says without having the cameras allocated in the current budget year, he had to hit the books to find room, and with his department projecting to end the year at a 4 to 5% surplus and factoring in the grant reimbursement, the Jacksonville Police Department can afford to take the hit now.
Mefford says his department should be able to hit the ground running with the new cameras soon. “I’m excited to get rolling with this project. It’s pretty ambitious that we have them on by the end of this year, but we are going to shoot for January 1, 2023, that the department will be one hundred percent wearing body cameras.
Obviously, we will have to roll them out in stages to try and get all the training done. We do have our policy in place. It was approved by the state, it was approved by the federal government to get us in compliance with the body cameras. We have our training prepared and we will sign off on the final invoice this morning and we should have the cameras in hand hopefully in the next four to six weeks and we will be having our first trial runs with the cameras.”
Mefford says over the last three to five years, his department has been working to get all of the infrastructure in place for adding body cameras to its systems. He says when they recently updated the dash cams in both squad cars and interview rooms, the system was designed to work with the new body cameras.
All police departments in the state are required to be outfitted with working body cameras by January 1st of 2025, and the grant funding is allowing the Jacksonville Police Department to potentially be in 100% compliance a full two years ahead of schedule.