FARGO — Cass County sheriff's deputies will likely be wearing body cameras by mid-February.
The county board on Monday, Nov. 16, unanimously approved the purchase of 50 cameras in a package deal that is part of a multifaceted contract with the Axon Enterprises of Scottsdale, Ariz., for stun guns, in-squad video equipment and cloud storage for the footage.
The county will pay off the $1.3 million for the package over a five-year period, with the first payment of $242,560 budgeted for next year.
Sheriff Jesse Jahner said they are planning the purchase right after Jan. 1 in the new budget year, with training to follow.
He told the commissioners it should help the department in proving cases, transparency and professionalism.
In the long run, he said, the combination contract will save the department funding.
The department, the largest law enforcement agency in the state with 205 employees, will equip about 28 patrol officers with the cameras while on duty, while others will be for investigators when they are out on a case as well as some for the warrant and civil division.
The sheriff said the 105 jail deputies are surrounded by cameras in the facility, so they won't need the cameras. They will, however, receive some of the stun guns that some jailers use while on duty.
The stun guns have a lifespan of about five to seven years and Jahner said they are being replaced on rotational basis.
The new in-car video systems will replace a contract they had with Panasonic.
The department is part of a growing number that are purchasing body cameras in the area, including the Clay County Sheriff's Department, Fargo Police and Hawley Police. Dilworth has had the cameras for five years, while the police departments in West Fargo and Moorhead don't have immediate plans for the cameras.
West Fargo in a statement said they were satisfied with their in-car video systems.
Moorhead Police Chief Shannon Monroe said they plan to purchase the cameras in the future, but are waiting to see if they can get a grant or assistance, which would speed up any purchase. He also said such a system might require hiring a data person to work with footage and to tie it into the existing in-vehicle camera system.