Onondaga County lawmakers have approved an initial $600,000 investment in a body camera program for the sheriff’s department. The party line vote comes a little over a week after Sheriff Gene Conway and County Executive Ryan McMahon blamed each other for not making it a priority.
Public Safety Committee Chair Chris Ryan tried twice to postpone a vote. He says there’s no need to rush into what will be a long-term commitment just 22 hours after receiving the amount.
“$606,000 is the basement of what we’re talking about. This is going to be millions and millions of dollars. They’re always going to be with us, so there’s broader implications of just $606,000 in the years to come,” Ryan said.
Legislator Bill Kinne, along with other Democrats, admonished Republicans for not following their own advice and allowing the spending item to skirt the legislature’s typical vetting process.
“All I’m asking for is to take a step back and let’s do it right,” Kinne said. “Maybe $606,000 is not enough money, maybe it’s too much. What’s the long range plan? How much is this going to cost us next year? (Republicans) don’t know any of these things because it hasn’t been discussed properly.”
Legislature Chairman Dave Knapp says a body camera policy has already been vetted as part of the county’s police reform plan, and that there’s no reason not to start the process.
“I don’t know what would change by sending this to committee and coming back in 30 days and voting in favor of it anyway. All it would do is lose us a month when we could start to get the equipment coming in,” Knapp said.
But legislator Vernon Williams took issue with the apparent rush on the part of Republican lawmakers. He says they weren’t even discussing body cameras, let alone setting aside funds over the past few years when black men and women were dying at the hands of police across the country.