Osage SO to buy body cameras for field deputies

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

The Osage County Sheriff's Office plans to spend grant funds in the coming months to buy body cameras for its field deputies.

Deputy Kevin Young, who prepared the grant application for the Sheriff's Office, said he anticipates it will be possible to buy 28 body cameras, two hard drives for imagery storage, and two docking stations for the purpose of downloading imagery from the cameras.

The Sheriff's Office is receiving $9,999 of grant funding through the Oklahoma District Attorneys Council.

"We will have enough to put one on every field deputy," Young said, adding that there would likely be a few cameras left over. He said the Sheriff's Office will be able to apply again in 2022 for grant money to buy body cameras for staff members at the county jail.

Young said it will likely be a matter of 3-4 months before body cameras for field deputies are actually purchased and use of them commences.

Sheriff Eddie Virden welcomed the award of the grant money and the prospect of his department beginning to use body cameras.

"I've been wanting to get body cameras since I started here," Virden said. He is completing the first year of his second four-year term as sheriff.

Virden also expressed an interest in acquiring camera systems for his vehicles that would provide clear video of why each traffic stop is performed. The grant for the body cameras does not include money for the vehicle-based systems of which he spoke.

Young said the type of automated, vehicle-based video system that Virden likes is expensive -- running some $6,000 per vehicle.

"I would love to have that in the cars," Virden said. His deputies work large swaths of very rural area, where they frequently have to make life-and-death decisions without backup. Camera equipment will help the deputies to create better records of their interactions with the public.

The Pawhuska City Council in February 2021 approved a purchase of body cameras and TASER weapons for the municipal police department. The total cost of the package deal -- cameras and electroshock weapons -- was slightly more than $106,000.

Deputy Young noted that the Sheriff's Office is going beyond purchasing technology resources, by investing in specialized training to help deputies appropriately respond to persons with mental health difficulties, as well as de-escalate tense encounters.