MARSHALL — The Harrison County Sheriff’s Office has received approval to apply for an East Texas Council of Governments grant to help provide body cameras for jailers as well as for the fire marshal’s office.

“Traditionally, the justice department offers, every year, a grant to supply law enforcement entities with body cams,” said sheriff’s office grant administrator Dwight Mays.

“It is a matching grant. Typically it’s 50%. We were lucky and blessed this year because the state has decided to kick in and join in participation and has added an additional 25%, so now the government is going to pick up 75% of the tab, and we will pick up 25 (%),” he said.

Mays said body cams have proved to be effective for sheriff’s office patrolmen, and the goal is to have them for jailers at the main jail and annex facility.

“What we’re trying to accomplish, as you may all well know, our patrolmen have been wearing body cams for quite some time. It has proven to be very effective. It does not even attempt to guarantee to say you’re not going to have any more complaints. No, it can’t do that for you, but it will reduce it because once they know that camera is on, most folks try to behave,” he said. “There’s a few that won’t, but what that camera will do, it will take that ‘he said-she said’ situation out of their hands.”

Mays said if there’s a complaint against an officer, for instance, the sheriff’s office is able to review body cam footage to see whether the complaint is valid.

“It’s always in our advantage, even when it’s the contact person that’s out there acting up or even if it’s sometimes in a case where it’s one of our own employees that misbehaves,” he said. “It gives us that very solid information. It gives us what we need to be able to act on a particular situation to either dismiss the complaint; or if we need to take corrective measures with a deputy, then we’ll have that on hand to do that with.”

Mays said what they’re trying to do now is take the body cam program to the next level by making sure jailers at both facilities are equipped.

“When a deputy is out there on the side of the road (with contact person), he is really only with him a brief period of time during that contact and possibly an arrest; but once they are transported over and entered into our jail system, our jailers are with them 24/7 as long as they’re incarcerated,” explained Mays. “So even though we have cameras in the jail, everybody that we talked to is in favor of outfitting the jailers with body cams.

“We think that this will increase safety for our jailers and for all persons that are incarcerated,” said Mays.

If the grant is approved, the total cost to outfit all jailers at both locations as well as personnel at the fire marshal’s office will be $64,571. The criminal justice division and the state’s portion will be $48,428. The jail’s portion will be $14,020, and the fire marshal’s cost will be $2,122.

Mays said the jail’s portion will be paid from the commissary budget.

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