CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Instead of criminals having to look a judge directly in the face, they will now be looking at a computer screen starting this morning. At the press of a button, what used to take hours will now only be a matter of minutes using a camera in the courtroom.
Officers were forced to shuttle inmates back and forth from the J. Reuben Long Detention Center to courtrooms for appearances. For some, the bulk of their shift was used on the 16 mile drive multiple times a day.
Police say this is at least a total of about four hours of a trained officer's time spent not protecting you. So the Conway Police Department shelled out almost 10 thousand dollars to bring video conferencing to the courtroom, and to leave their officers out on patrol.
Police and taxpayers say it's money well spent. "It is extremely beneficial to us because it has cut down on our man hours that we have to use," said Catina Hipp with Conway Police. "And we can put our officers where they need to be and we can also cut down on our fuel costs."
"I just know how much work they have to do already and that would cut down a lot of their time," said taxpayer Danny Lyle. Conway police said they plan to use the extra money saved from the video conferencing system to pay for gas, patrol car maintenance, and officer's time.
The system is especially important for municipalities like Conway, because it doesn't have a secure holding cell to keep inmates while they're waiting for their day in court. It means those who were booked in the detention center for crimes like theft and assault can stay in jail.
Now all charges in Conway will have the chance to go through a camera before they show up in person for trial. The Horry County Sheriff's Office is working to spread this initiative out to the entire county because they're not only worried about their officer's safety -- but yours too.
For example, sometimes there is only one officer in a van, driving about 10 inmates at a time. Many times, they're making multiple trips to and from jail.
Officers say transporting inmates back and forth between the detention center and the courtroom could be a recipe for disaster. "Having inmates on the side of the road in a van is a huge security risk," said Lieutenant Ben Well with the sheriff's office.
"With this they never leave the building, they are never outside the confines of the facility, so the risk of public interaction is not there."
The next city lined up to get this upgrade in technology and safety is Aynor.