In a first for Lancaster County, sheriff's deputies may soon be wearing body cameras.
County Commissioner Craig Lehman asked to implement body cameras for county employees who carry guns after the death of George Floyd in May. Sheriff Chris Leppler is now asking for cameras for 20 deputies as part of his 2021 budget.
“When I first came into office we had looked at getting body cameras for the deputies, but at that point it was cost prohibitive and we had other priorities coming in as a new administration,” Leppler said.
The 20 cameras would cost $70,000 for the first year and $38,000 each year for four subsequent years.
The Sheriff’s Office currently has 48 full-time and 10 part-time deputies, so not all deputies would get a camera. They would be limited to deputies assigned to the warrant service, civil and transportation divisions.
“It would be deputies that would generally be assigned out on the street,” he said, although it could “potentially” be extended to others in the future.
“Once we do get it up and running and see how it goes, we'll look at the future, but I at least think it’s a good start,” he said.
Lehman had originally hoped to obtain body cameras for any county employee who carries a firearm as part of their job. That would include personnel in the District Attorney's Office, Parks Department, and Adult Probation and Parole.
“I think that is the right approach,” Lehman said at a county budget hearing Tuesday of giving the cameras to street deputies
Heather Adams, Lancaster County’s District Attorney, is not expected to ask for cameras for her office. She said that while she “generally support(s) deployment and use of body-worn cameras,” she is concerned with the cost-benefit ratio for the purchase.
“County Detectives are primarily investigators, not first responders, so there would be relatively limited occasions for use of body cameras,” she said in an email.
The sheriff's request comes as the county commissioners begin drafting next year's budget, a process that is expected to be completed in late November or early December. The 2020 fiscal year budget for the Sheriff's office as $5,375,799.34. Leppler requested $5,489,449.83 for 2021.