GOSHEN — The Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office will move ahead with the $976,000 purchase of new body cameras after a vote by the county commissioners Monday.
Commissioners voted to let the sheriff’s office pursue a contract with Utility Associates Inc. for their BodyWorn camera system. The new devices will replace cameras currently worn by both patrol and corrections officers, as well as their in-car systems and related software.
That equals about 180 cameras, according to Sheriff Jeff Siegel. The sheriff’s department has used body and in-car cameras for a number of years.
The Georgia company’s bid was the second to lowest of the four that were opened at the Nov. 18 meeting, which ranged from $884,000 to $1.1 million. Siegel explained in a letter to the commissioners recommending the BodyWorn devices that they offer the most advanced technology and would function well in law enforcement and corrections environments.
He said command staff at the sheriff’s department were able to meet with three of the four companies and evaluated their technology and software. He said the lowest cost proposal presented concerns with possibly falling off during altercations, thus failing to record crucial incidents.
He explained Monday that the BodyWorn cameras are integrated into a uniform shirt. He said the purchase includes some new shirts and the retrofitting of their current uniforms.
“They’ll have kind of a buttonhole in the shirt, and then there’s a device that locks the camera to the shirt,” he said. “It secures it pretty good on there.”
In addition to being less cumbersome than their current cameras, he said the new system will have better activation triggers. That could include actions like drawing a firearm or going prone on the ground.
Also Monday, commissioners approved traffic sign changes to the intersection of C.R. 31 and C.R. 131.
Elkhart County Highway Engineer Kent Schumacher said the changes were recommended after a study of the intersection found that there was a potential conflict for vehicles making turns without signs to control it.
He said they’ll remove the yield sign on southbound C.R. 31 and instead add a stop sign to southbound C.R. 131. A “stop ahead” sign will also be posted on C.R. 131.
“Years ago, only farmers negotiated that and it was OK,” Commissioner Mike Yoder remarked after the vote. “Now there’s more people living on there.”