Rock Hill council OKs $1.3 million agreement for police body, dash camera equipment

Doug Echols
Doug Echols

The city of Rock Hill will likely pay $1.3 million over five years to provide body-worn cameras, dash cameras and related file storage equipment for police use, after a decision Monday by the City Council to approve an agreement with Taser International.

The council voted 6-0 to approve Taser’s fee, while agreeing to pass the contract to City Manager David Vehaun and city attorney Paul Dillingham for final review and signing. Assuming there are no substantive changes, Vehaun will likely sign the contract.

The lease-purchase agreement will outfit each of Rock Hill’s 151 sworn officers, as well as provide six extra units. It would include more than 100 in-car dash cameras, as well as storage and file software, so officers could catalog and retrieve footage.

The Rock Hill Police Department had been researching companies as early as January, and received written quotes from four different vendors between May and July. The full cost over five years will total $1,334,200.

Mayor Doug Echols praised police Chief Chris Watts and his department for its work, and said he believed the technology would keep all parties accountable.

“It’s good to have that visual record for everyone concerned,” Echols said. “It’s both for the protection of the public and the police.”

After two and a half years, the city could trade in its body cameras for potential new models. After the five years, the contract would be up and the city could then decide whether to continue that current deal to provide for upgrades and software services.

The dash cameras could be replaced every five years. Both types of cameras come with no-fault warranties, Watts said.

The city already has approved in this year’s budget a new position for the police department to handle all of the incoming footage from dash and body cameras. The proposed software administrator would deal with the system’s software, file retrieval and cataloging of the footage so it could be organized and retrieved at a later date.

David Biggers, captain of technical services with the police department, told the council that the position was necessary to deal with the projected four and a half terabytes of footage that could come in each year.

Taser International’s cameras offer pre-event recording, which records the previous minute before an officer presses the record button. A camera can be programmed to begin recording when a patrol car’s blue lights are turned on or a weapon is retrieved from a car’s weapons rack.

Monday night’s council vote drew praise from Brad Rawlinson, a Rock Hill attorney and leader of the group Concerned Black Men of the city of Rock Hill.

Rawlinson and several black leaders last month delivered a list of 10 demands they believe will create more transparency in police actions. One of those demands was the cessation of patrols using vehicles without visible police markings, radar equipment and/or video equipment.

Rawlinson said he was happy for all parties concerned, saying that new equipment would keep everyone safe.

“I’m just happy,” he said. “I think they deserve congratulations this afternon. ... I think the city showed how good it is at its core.”

S.C. Rep. John King, D-Rock Hill, said the decision brought a smile to his face.

“The city has probably done more than other cities to have 100 percent of their officers using body cameras,” he said. “It’s a move in the right direction.”

Gov. Nikki Haley signed into law last summer a bill that requires all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras.

David Thackham: 803-329-4066, @dthackham