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Butler County Sheriff applying for bodycam grant

Butler County Sheriffs office and jail
Posted at 9:13 AM, Oct 21, 2021

HAMITON — The Butler County Sheriff's Office applied for a state grant to help purchase body cameras for deputies. However, Sheriff Richard Jones says he does not want the equipment.

"I've never been supportive of cameras," Jones said.

Yet, he has now asked for more than $280,000 to put them on his deputies.

"I know it's going to be a mandate eventually," said Sheriff Jones. "And, if I can get a grant to do it, it beats taking it from my budget which I do not have. I can even hardly buy bullets sometimes."

Regional transparency advocate Chris Brown took note.

"Body cams are an accountability thing," said Brown. "And, I think it’s important that we adjust our thinking."

"Yeah, but I don't have any issues proving what took place. We have investigators and if someone has done something inappropriate, where they've lied, we deal with it. And, it works for us," argued Sheriff Jones.

"There should be no problem with body cam if you're doing what you're supposed to be doing," said Brown.

Butler County's top investigator, Prosecutor Mike Gmoser applauded the Sheriff for going for it.

"I can understand why he would say geeze I don’t really know that I really need that, but nobody can predict the future on any type of incident that occurs," said Gmoser.

Gmoser says his team could potentially benefit from more evidence for cases.

"The fact that he is willing to consider that, is in the public interest, his interest and my interest," said Gmoser. "Because I ultimately am the beneficiary of having evidence photographically. And as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. So, it’s hard to turn that down, but I understand that it’s not a simple decision to make."

Regional transparency advocates like Chris Brown said the Sheriff's reluctant application is an odd step in the right direction.

"It’s wonderful that he trusts his officers, as he should. However, in this particular climate there’s a need for the community to feel that same trust," said Brown.

Jones said Butler County would require around 90 cameras for all of its personnel on the road. He said that number didn't count deputies who worked that jail or other places.

Most sheriffs, police chiefs and law enforcement authorities support the use of body cameras. But Jones has been staunchly against bodycams for years.

The state estimates at least one third of agencies do not have body cameras. So, last month, Governor Mike DeWine announced $5 million in grant funding available to help with equipment and storage costs.

Jones said the $280,000 would not cover all the costs to outfit his office with cameras.

"So my commissioners have to buy into it also," Jones said. "They're the paying factor."

The grant application deadline was Oct. 8. A Butler County Sheriff's Office Spokesperson tells us the state is aware and allowed an extension.