BENTONVILLE -- Benton County's justices of peace moved forward with a plan to acquire body cameras for sheriff's deputies.
The cameras were on the agenda for Tuesday's Finance Committee meeting.
Kenneth Paul, a major with the Benton County Sheriff's Office, told justices the Sheriff's Office wanted to add the body cameras and also update cameras that are now in some patrol cars.
The Sheriff's Office will purchase 85 body cameras and 60 camera systems for cars and other equipment at a cost of $633,000. The cameras will be compatible with camera systems that are now in several vehicles.
The body cameras will be paid for through money the county is receiving from the American Rescue Plan, which provides $350 billion in federal money for eligible state, local, territorial and tribal governments nationwide, according to the county.
The county will receive a combined $54 million -- $27 million over the next two years.
Paul said officials at the Sheriff's Office started looking at purchasing body cameras a few months ago. Body cameras are needed with the increase in violent crimes that the Sheriff's Office has been handling this year, he said.
The Sheriff's Office handled 50 sex crimes last year and has already had 61 cases this year, Paul said. The Sheriff's Office investigated two homicides last year and has investigated six homicides this year.
Paul said body cameras will not only help deputies in the preservation of evidence but will aid in officer safety.
He noted that when Pea Ridge police officer Kevin Apple was killed earlier this year he was not wearing a body camera nor was there a camera in his vehicle.
Paul said the lack of cameras made it more difficult to figure out who was driving the car that hit Apple.
Apple, 53, died June 26 at the White Oak Station in Pea Ridge when he was hit by a Jeep and dragged about 149 feet, according to court documents. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Shawna Cash, the driver of the vehicle that hit Apple, is charged with capital murder, escape, fleeing, two counts of aggravated assault, leaving the scene of a personal injury accident, criminal mischief, obstructing governmental operations and reckless driving. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Elijah Michael Andazola, who was a passenger in the vehicle, is charged with accomplice to capital murder and escape.
Justice of the Peace Brian Armas said he supported the request because the cameras will aid prosecutors in obtaining convictions.
Paul said 62 or 63 body cameras will go to patrol while some will go to detectives when they are conducting interviews and some will be used by the jail staff.
Sheriff Shawn Holloway told the justices he believes body cameras will aid in reducing lawsuits since there is no camera coverage in cells. He said 80% to 90% of the lawsuits filed by inmates concern use of force.
Holloway said there are instances when jail deputies have to physically remove inmates from cells, and the first person through the door could be wearing a camera and record the incident, which could prevent a lawsuit from being filed against the staff.
Justice of the Peace Ken Farmer said he purchased a similar camera system for vehicles when he was Bella Vista police chief. "I'm 100% in favor of this," he said.
Paul said the request was going to be in the Sheriff's Office capital request in the 2022 budget but decided to seek the money from the federal funds.
Justice of the Peace Joseph Bollinger, who sponsored the request for the cameras, said he had studied the issue and believes the cameras can be bought with the federal money.
Brenda Peacock, county comptroller, said she will continue to look at grants to help pay for the cameras.
The camera request will now be on the Committee of Whole's Oct. 19 agenda.
Officials at the Sheriff's Office also presented their 2022 budget to the justices of the peace Tuesday night.
The Sheriff's Office's 2022 budget is $13,252,000, and the budget last year was $11,645,000. The jail budget this year is $11,564,000, and next year's budget is $11,645,0000.
Meyer Gilbert, the chief deputy of the Sheriff's Office, said last year's budget had the office getting 13 new Tahoes.
Gilbert said the office is still waiting to receive 12 of the vehicles.
He said the office is planning to acquire 15 Tahoes in the 2022 budget. The vehicles cost $50,000 each.
Paul told the justices of the peace that there have been times that they have had to pull vehicles from other departments to use for patrol.
The county's 2022 budget is $52.4 million, while the 2021 budget was $46 million.
The Road Department presented its budget request at Monday's meeting. The department's budget this year is $13.5 million, and the 2022 budget is set at $14.1 million.
The department is seeking to spend $2.88 million in next year's budget for purchasing four graders, four dump trucks, a single axle dump, a bush hog unit, a bulldozer, a compacter and six trucks.
The next budget meeting is 6 p.m. Thursday in the Quorum Court Room of the Benton County Administration Building.
Property tax payments due Friday
The statewide deadline to pay 2020 personal and real estate taxes is Friday. Payments can be made to the Benton County Collector online or in person. Payments received by mail must be federally postmarked no later than Oct. 15.
If residents do not pay their taxes by 11:59 p.m. Friday, there will be a 10% late fee and or interest.
The Benton County Collector has locations in Bentonville, Gravette, Rogers and Siloam Springs. Consult the collector website at bentoncountyar.gov/collector for information on payment options.
The Collector’s Office at 215 E. Central Ave. will be closed Monday to process payments.
To pay online, visit https://bentoncountyar.gov/collector/pay-taxes/
For more information, call the County Collector’s office at 479-271-1040.
Source: Benton County