ROCKFORD (WREX) — The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office is looking for funding from the county for updates on some of its equipment, which would include getting body cameras.
Deputies for the sheriff’s office don’t wear body cameras and have never had them before, but now, they want to. And body cameras aren’t the only upgrade the sheriff’s office is looking for.
“We are running at the end of life of our tasers,” Chief Deputy Mark Karner said. “”We’re also running at the end of life of our squad cameras and we’re adding a third component, body cameras.”
Though tasers, which lessen the amount of force, and dash cameras are important, Karner and Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney agree body cameras are the way of the future for law enforcement.
“It’s a strategic move on our part because it’s something that I think, within a few years, may be mandated at the state level,” Chairman Haney said.
The only thing standing in the way is money. To equip every deputy, the county would need to spend around $2.5 million in funding over the next five years. With the new fiscal year budget recently being approved by board members, it’s clear the money is something the county doesn’t have.
“Every dollar we’re scratching and clawing for,” Chairman Haney said.
Some of the money could come from the sheriff’s commissary fund. That would only provide the funds to give body cameras to corrections officers. But board member Burt Gerl says he has a solution for making up the rest of the money.
“Sooner or later, we’re going to have to ask the voters to pay a little bit more and the sales tax is the best way to do it,” Gerl explained.
Gerl said increasing the sales tax would be up to the voters, but there aren’t many other revenue sources to consider, at least, not yet.
“There’s been talk about the casino revenue or the possible weed tax that’s going to come in, but those are unseen numbers,” Gerl said. “We have no idea what those numbers are going to be, so we cannot forecast a plan for that.”
But wherever the money does eventually come from, multiple board members told 13 WREX at Thursday night’s committee meeting that they want to find a revenue source and bring body cameras to Winnebago County.
If the board doesn’t approve a contract for the equipment before the end of the year, the price tags for all the gear will rise, but its unclear by how much.
It is important to note there is a clause in the contract that would allow the county to opt-out of the deal after the first year, but only if it proves it cannot pay the bill ($2.5 million) over the next four years. Gerl said that would be unlikely.