tasers shannon queen

Major Shannon Queen of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office explains the basics of how tasers work to the county Board of Commissioners at their Dec. 14 meetings. During the meeting, the sheriff’s office requested approval for the purchase of a new system of body cameras, car cameras and tasers.

By Beth Lawrence

 

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners last month approved the purchase of a new system of Axon body-worn cameras, tasers and in-car cameras for the sheriff’s office.

Chief Deputy Matt Wike and Major Shannon Queen presented the request for the upgraded system at the board’s Dec. 14 work session.

“We see Axon as an integrated system that’s going to bring things together for us in tasers, in car cameras and our evidence storage,” Wike said. “We want to get this up and running.”

At their regular meeting later that day the board voted unanimously to approve the purchase

During budget planning for the 2021-22 fiscal year, the Sheriff’s Office requested funds to purchase the equipment, but county Manager Don Adams was unable to add that item to the budget without making adjustments elsewhere.

“I recommended that we use ARP monies,” Adams said. “But we had to wait and to get a better understanding if these funds could be utilized for this.”

Adams and Finance Director Darlene Fox have since confirmed that American Rescue Plan Act funds can be used for the purchase.

Adams and the Sheriff’s Office hoped to delay the expenditure until 2022, but the need to replace the equipment became more dire.

The Sheriff’s Office did not replace or upgrade older pieces of equipment in fiscal year 2019-20 because they were making plans to purchase the new system of cameras and tasers from Axon. In the meantime, some of the older equipment has begun failing.

This led them to request that the board approve the purchase right away.

“We had an incident this past weekend, small deputy, big suspect, and needed to be tased in that situation,” Queen said. “And it didn’t work. But there was another officer there. So luckily, they were able to use that other one. As y’all know, many times it is usually a lone deputy dealing with that person by themselves.”

There have been other failures throughout the year as well, according to Queen.

Additionally, Axon made some changes that created a discount and made an offer to sweeten the deal, but the county had only until the end of December to make the buy or lose the incentives.

Changes to Axon’s quoting system for equipment created a savings of over $100,000, said Queen.

The sheriff’s office wanted to expand their acquisition to include body-worn cameras for its investigators. Axon included the 10 extra cameras at no cost as long as the Sheriff’s Office made the buy this year.

The county will purchase 77 body-worn cameras, 24 in car cameras and 77 tasers. The package includes installation of vehicle cameras as well as training and certification on proper use of tasers for some officers who can then lead training for others.

Axon’s system also includes cloud storage for camera footage eliminating the need to keep and maintain a server to store footage at the Sheriff’s Office.

Evidence from crime scenes, witness testimony or other interactions captured on camera can be uploaded directly to cloud storage and sent via email from there to district attorneys’ offices, defense lawyers and other interested parties, Queen said. This eliminates the need to copy and recopy the video to thumb drives or discs and deliver it.

“To our understanding from our research there is not one company that does electro-shock weapons, body camera, in-car cameras and takes all that digital evidence and puts it in one place,” Queen said.

The system will cost the county $1,210,451 to be paid in five years at $242,090 yearly.