DARLINGTON COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The Darlington County Sheriff's Office will soon purchase 74 body cameras and the data storage equipment to go along with them.
Up until now, the DCSO only requested a federal grant back in 2016, but nothing came from it, DCSO Lt. Robert Kilgo said.
"Most of your law enforcement agencies are operating with body cameras. Obviously our local municipalities are operating in Darlington County around here with them and throughout the Pee Dee, so yes, this was very unfortunate," said Kilgo. "This was a hurdle Sheriff Tony Chavis had to tackle immediately coming into office, but it was necessary."
The DCSO has been awarded $112,011.27 for the purchase and data storage of body-worn cameras through the General Assembly's Body-Worn Cameras Fund. Sen. Gerald Malloy, of Darlington, was the chief sponsor of the Body Camera Bill, which was passed back in 2015 and requires all law enforcement agencies within South Carolina to implement the use of body-worn cameras.
"I was able to sponsor the nation's first successful legislations to require the statewide use of body cameras by police," Malloy said. "The issue we wanted to help overcome in this technological world is why not use the best technology available to reduce the uncertainty that has been dividing us."
According to Malloy, $5.8 million was awarded for body camera funding throughout the state and agencies have to apply for the money.
"Darlington County was able to get well over $100,000, which is the first time we were able to end up getting money from this fund. I think it's awareness, cooperation and collaboration," Malloy said.
In 2016, DCSO was awarded $19,787 from the U.S. Department of Justice through the Justice Assistance Grant program to purchase body cameras. That money only covered the cameras themselves and not the data storage.
The sheriff's office also had to be reimbursed. Kilgo said that's not the case with the state funding.
"It's a lot less headache dealing with the state," he said. "There's more funding and we don't have to find this money somewhere else, hoping we get the money on the back end."
Deputies who have regular contact with the public will be required to wear a body camera, so the sheriff's office will outfit one-to-one the patrol officers and investigators.
DCSO officials believe this is another example of the administration being proactive to let the people of Darlington know they are safer.
"This is something that is very much needed for this agency so that we can show accountability and transparency in everything that we do," Kilgo said.
DCSO expects the body cameras and data storage equipment to be in by the end of 2017. The next steps will be to make sure it's all installed properly and that the entire staff is trained on how to store the video files.