UPDATE: Walker County Sheriff says lack of dash cams due to tight budget
With limited funds, Sheriff Steve Wilson has to prioritize, which means some items like dash cams are in short supply.
UPDATE: Only four Walker County Sheriff's Office patrol vehicle are equipped with a dash cam.
Sheriff Steve Wilson says it isn't in the budget, nor is it a top priority, to equip dash cams on patrol cars.
He says the budget for his department is tight these days.
With limited funds, he has to prioritize, which means some items like dash cams are in short supply.
"It's not that we are against them, it's just they have been on the lower pecking order than some of the other things that have been on the higher pecking order that I feel are more important in the daily duties we carry out,” Sheriff Wilson said.
Sheriff Wilson says only four of the department's 27 vehicles are equipped with dash cams, which are in the Traffic Division. But neighboring counties like Whitfield and Catoosa counties have dozens more by comparison.
According to the Times Free Press, Whitfield County has 40 vehicles equipped and Catoosa has 45.
Sheriff Wilson says traffic is part of their job, but it's not their main duty.
"Where our priority is the jail, the courts, and investigating thefts, burglaries and murders. Dash cams are not as important as some other things we have in our tool box,” Sheriff Wilson said.
Sheriff Wilson says the money went to update firearms, new vehicles and better pay.
In fact, Sheriff Wilson says pay is the biggest priority for his department.
"Salaries and benefits for the men and women who enforce the law and keep the peace day in and day out, here in Walker County. Without good salaries, you can't compete with other people in your area, which means you are going to lose good people to agencies that can pay better,” Sheriff Wilson said.
Sheriff Wilson says he is open to the idea of more dash cameras for his department, if the budget allows it.
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PREVIOUS STORY: LAFAYETTE, Ga. (AP) - A Georgia sheriff says dash cameras are too expensive and aren't a priority as traffic enforcement isn't a major focus.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports the issue came up during last week's trial of 43-year-old Robert Eric Owenby, who was sentenced to 50 years for shooting at authorities during a traffic stop in November.
Owenby said deputies shot first. Deputies said Owenby shot first. There was no dash camera video.
The county has four patrol cars outfitted with cameras. Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson says outfitting the remaining 23 cars may cost about $115,000.
Wilson says buying more dash cameras isn't in the budget. The agency had a budget of $8 million last fall, which he says the department used to buy handguns and stun guns and fund salaries.
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