Clark County outlook for body-worn cameras slips through late next year

Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy Jarrod McCreary wears the department’s new body camera system on March 8, 2021, in Hillsboro, Oregon.

Jonathan Levinson / OPB

Clark County’s attempts to start using body-worn cameras for sheriff’s deputies encountered a problem in November, and it now seems increasingly likely that a new attempt will not come until later in the year. next year.

The wait is prompting southwest Washington civil rights groups, which recently criticized multiple police killings of people of color, to ask the county council of councilors for urgency. Most recently, sheriff’s deputies shot dead Kfin Karuo, 27, in October.

“There has to be a way,” said Karen Morrison, executive director of the nonprofit Odyssey World International Educational Services. “They find money for salaries, they find money for themselves. But where are the pots of money that are set aside to protect blacks and browns in Clark County?

“Where is it?” Morrison continued. “Oh, let me get it right: not in the budget. “

County finance officials said the annual price for body-worn cameras at the Clark County Sheriff’s Office would start at around $ 1.8 million. That would not include the start-up costs of purchasing the devices, but county officials said they believed they could get grants to cover those expenses.

The county’s newest ideas both call for votes from the public. In recent workshops, county councilors discussed two different types of sales tax increases that could fund the program. However, the votes could only take place in August or November 2022.

Jasmine Tolbert, president of the Vancouver chapter of the NAACP, expressed concern about the delay. She said confidence in law enforcement remained low and the recording devices would instill greater confidence in the event that another shootout occurred.

“I’m concerned that we have another vulnerable person in our community killed by the sheriff’s department… and that we don’t have enough evidence to prove what really happened at the scene,” Tolbert said.

It has been about a month since Clark County voters rejected Proposition 10. The proposal asked voters for a small increase in sales taxes to help fund juvenile detention centers and prisons. County officials have said they could use the money already spent on these facilities to pay for the cameras.

Voters rejected the measure by around 17,000 votes. Civil rights groups and advocates like Morrison said the county’s approach was too confusing for most voters. The turnout in off-year elections was also low – around 36%.

“Even when I read it… it was like ‘Should I say yes? Should I say no? ‘ Morrison said.

Ed Hamilton Rosales, president of the League of United American Citizens of Latin America branch in southwest Washington, supported Proposition 10 but expressed frustration that the county had not tried to find funding that do not require a vote.

Hamilton Rosales pointed out that Councilors and Sheriff Chuck Atkins have all publicly stated that they support body cameras.

“They have to start taking responsibility,” he said. “They don’t want to tackle it in a more practical way.”

Councilor Gary Medvigy says the council is trying to deliberate. The new sales tax proposals also involve local cities, and he said the process would help level the community.

“Would I have liked to see it funded two years ago?” Yes, ”Medvigy said. “But the advantage here is that it gives us time.”

Medvigy expressed frustration that Clark County often loses millions of dollars in sales tax revenue when buyers cross the state border to take advantage of Oregon’s lack of sales tax. He said the county’s best source for finding money would be to cut elsewhere.

“The simple answer is we don’t have lint (in the budget),” Medvigy said.

Yet others point out that the county council has historically moved away from raising property taxes. Washington law allows councilors to gradually increase the tax roll by 1%.

In a written statement, councilor Temple Lentz – the only Democrat on the council – stressed that the majority of the five council members voted against the increase in property taxes two years in a row.

“Due to a persistent structural deficit and the County Council majority’s refusal to raise the revenues we need to actually fund our government to the levels our constituents expect and demand, we now have to wait,” said Slow down.

For Medvigy, property taxes don’t make a difference. A one-year property tax increase would bring in about $ 780,000 in income, which he says “isn’t close.”

According to Morrison, communities of color in the county can’t wait. She said her nonprofit was working with local churches to purchase dashboard cameras to give to residents of color in Clark County for the holidays.

“While our community, the police force, the sheriff’s department are debating budgets and funds, our lives are valued,” Morrison said.


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