MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The state's top law enforcement agency is giving nearly $5.8 million to eligible law enforcement agencies across South Carolina for body cameras, including tens of thousands of dollars to Grand Strand and Pee Dee departments.
The agencies will receive the money within 30 to 45 days after sending their signed cash award document back to the state.
The South Carolina Public Safety Coordinating Council was charged with distributing these funds through the South Carolina Department of Public Safety. Agencies across the state were allowed to submit applications requesting funding for the body cameras and everything needed with them.
Sgt. Bob Beres with the South Carolina Highway Patrol said of the 164 law enforcement agencies and four solicitors offices that applied, all of them will receive funding, which is both for new equipment and equipment costs dating back to July 2012.
While law enforcement agencies are awaiting their share of the body camera funding, Beres said SCDPS is anticipating the general assembly will authorize recurring funds of $2.4 million in 2018 and agencies will be able to apply for those funds towards the end of this year.
The funding is something Coastal Carolina University's public safety department greatly appreciates.
"It is very expensive," Capt. Thom Mezzapelle said. "It isn't just the cameras. You've got to have the software, which pulls it in and protects it and makes it good evidence. And you have to have storage for it because we have to keep it for a certain amount of time, and you have to have backup for that storage because you don't want to lose it from having it in one place."
The public safety department at CCU is receiving $24,000 from the state for cameras Mezzapelle said the department has already purchased.
He added that, while expensive, the cameras have proven to be useful in more ways than one.
"It gives us another perspective," Mezzapelle said. "Obviously we have the car camera running, but this gives us a perspective closer, right up to the person's actual presence."
For search warrants, Mezzapelle said the cameras can pick up things officers may miss the first time, and, of course, they can help in any situation with escalated circumstances.
"An incidence where you're dealing with somebody who is maybe not completely rational, it gives you another perspective to be able to try and figure out exactly what's going on," he said.
Here is a complete list of area agencies and the amount of funding they will receive, as provided by the SCDPS: