BUFFALO, N.Y. — Erie County legislators have reached a deal to equip dozens of sheriff's deputies with body cameras.
This deal comes after weeks of contention over money to buy the cameras.
The agreement reached by legislators means about 100 sheriff's deputies on road patrol could be wearing body cameras this fall, at the earliest.
But it has taken weeks to get here.
In May, legislators voted unanimously to approve $600,000 for body cameras.
The money, though, has sat within the Division of Information and Support Services, so the county's chief information officer can work with the sheriff's office.
But this caused concerns over the chain of custody of video evidence and questions over who would actually have control of the data?
"We're not going to risk convictions of bad people because we stored the data in the wrong place the sheriff does not believe that is the right thing to do," said John Greenan, the chief of administrative services for the Erie County Sheriff's Office.
So, the sheriff's office wanted the funds transferred to them.
Democrats on the legislature refused and said the money would only be transferred if the sheriff's office revealed estimates of how much the body camera program would cost.
Was it a matter of trust?
"It was a matter of trust for me, and I was very clear about that yesterday in the public safety committee. Like I said previously, the sheriff made it clear twice in that committee that he was not interested in spending additional funding on body cameras but on a helicopter," said April Baskin, the chairwoman of the legislature.
The deal reached by Democrats and Republicans falls in line with what Democrats wanted all along.
The sheriff's office said Friday it has begun looking at applications from companies that would provide the body cameras and a company will be selected by the end of August.
After that, legislators say the money for the body cameras will be transferred to the sheriff's office.
REPORTER: It looks like the sheriff's office is going along with what Democrats want?
"The sheriff's office agreed, fine, this is a priority of us just as much of you guys we are willing to work with the administration and move forward so that this project can get off the ground," Legislator Joe Lorigo said.
Legislators will recess next month. When they come back in September, a decision on which company to go with on the body cameras should be selected, and lawmakers will have to go through the approval process.
This has certainly been a long road to increase transparency and this whole thing isn't over yet.
Is it anticipated that there's going to be more delay, or holdups or issues, or is that going to go smoothly in the fall?
"What would happen next is they would go through the RFPs or the responses to the RFP, choose a vendor, and then bring a contract to the legislature for approval. I hope there's no more delays," Lorigo said.
The agreement still needs to be approved by the full legislature next week.
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