Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $500,000)
The Forrest County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) plans to use the appropriated Community Project Funding to initiate two projects: an upgrade to mobile and hand-held radio equipment and broadscale implementation of Body Worn Camera (BWC) deployment. The radio project will enhance the effectiveness and flow of information within the department and among law enforcement agencies in the area, while the BWC project will promote transparency of law enforcement activity within the community.
FCSO currently utilizes radios that are not only well past their end-of-service-life, but are also no longer serviceable by the manufacturer. The need for wireless communication is of paramount importance for the safety and security of FCSO personnel and the citizens served. To meet the need for reliable communication under extreme conditions, FCSO utilizes the Mississippi Wireless Information Network (MSWIN). It is imperative to have wireless communication equipment that will allow for the continuous operation on MSWIN to provide interoperability internally and between other emergency service providers. Part of the allocation will be utilized to purchase new MSWIN compliant, hand-held and dash-mount vehicle radios and supporting peripheral accessories.
The current administration of the FCSO inherited a law enforcement department that never budgeted for or implemented BWCs. Therefore, there was no budget line item to procure, repair or replace BWCs. BWCs enable officers to record situations that occur in a multitude of environments. While not a panacea, these systems provide the greatest degree of recording flexibility currently available. BWCs provide an opportunity to capture an incident on record to assist with determinations relevant to the law, policy, and skills training. In addition, BWC’s enable the FCSO to preserve and present evidence or address alleged concerns with factual information. Recent reporting on the use of BWCs indicates that BWC wearing officers significantly generate fewer use of force reports relative to officers without BWCs. We believe there may be a cost-benefit analysis that might reveal savings from an anticipated reduced number of complaints against officers and a reduction in time required to resolve complaints. Properly implemented and managed, BWCs offer a better review process that is expected to deter potential officer misconduct and serve to protect officers from unfounded litigation, liability, and loss of public confidence and trust.
The project funding will provide urgently required equipment that there is currently no other avenue available to obtain. The equipment will provide a much higher degree of officer safety and greater service to the public.