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Onondaga County Sheriff Voices Support For Body Camera Program, So County Executive Gets Started

Matt Hassan WAER

Onondaga County Sheriff Gene Conway says he supports the use of body cameras as long as the resources are provided.  Conway doesn’t have any projections for what a program might cost. But, New York State and Syracuse Police have already begun implementing them.


Conway says he endorsed the concept of body cameras as early as 4 years ago. 

“As far back as 2017-2018 this agency talked about body cameras. We looked into body cameras. We even thought it would be prudent to have a pilot program so we can evaluate the different body cameras. But again, I can’t do it without the resources,” said Conway.

The resources are on the way. Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon pledged Thursday to provide money for body cameras in next year’s budget, and advanced the process Friday. Conway says he’d buy the cameras now if money was specifically set aside.  But, he says he doesn’t want the devices until enough funding is provided to fully implement them. 

“I want to be able to say that I am fully funded and operational with body cameras so that there would not be any single incident where a deputy should’ve had a body camera on and didn’t. I know now in today’s world what that perception is and I don’t want it,” said Conway.


Following Conway's press conference Friday morning, County Executive McMahon held a briefing of his own Friday afternoon. According to McMahon, he emailed a letter to the sheriff in February asking for a body camera program. McMahon never recieved a reply. Sheriff Conway said he never recieved the email.


McMahon said now with the public support from the sheriff, he's directing the county's purchasing director to begin the body camera procurement process.


"We did this for the Syracuse Police Department. We do the procurement and purchasing for the city of Syracuse," said McMahon. "Secondly, law department is currently working on a fund balance resolution. As soon as we have the exact dollar figure we need related to what the cost will be for the body camera program, Chairman Knapp has agreed to sponsor."


McMahon continued, "And I would ask Chairman Knapp and the legislature to consider this being on the May agenda as a waiver item."


McMahon said if these things happen, the body camera program can be expedited. If the legislature approves the item, Conway would then be in charge of implementing the program.

Conway said he wouldn’t compromise general budget money that pays for more vehicles, deputy positions, and other priorities to buy body cameras. In order to be transparent, he says he would provide updates on the budget process and buying body cameras each step of the way.


The story was updated 5:31 p.m. following the afternoon press conference held by Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon.

Katie Zilcosky is WAER’s All Things Considered host and features reporter. She also co-hosts WAER’s public affairs show Syracuse Speaks. As a reporter, she focuses on technology, economy, and identity.