BOCC Agrees With Sheriff’s Request For Body Cameras, But They’re Not Sure How To Fund Them

January 22, 2021

Newly-elected Escambia County Sheriff Chip Simmons asked the Escambia County Commission on Thursday for the funds to purchase body cameras for his deputies, following through on a campaign pledge.

Simmons is requesting the commission allocate $912,727 for the purchase of 268 body cameras, with the money coming from what was CARES Act funds.

“Every day that we do not have body cameras, there’s one thing that could take place that could come up and embarrass the Sheriff’s Office, could embarrass the county,” Simmons said. “I just think that this is that important — too important for us to delay it.”

The county had until December 31, 2020, to use $57 million from the CARES Act. In order to beat the deadline, the county put $25 million into a “Public Health and Safety Payroll” account to use for Public Safety Department expenses. Because the $25 million will be used to reimburse normal payroll expenses, the $25 million will go into the general fund for other CARES Act expenses.

Each county commissioner has expressed support for the body cameras, but they are not yet convinced it should come from the $25 million. Commissioner Robert Bender stated that he was told the body cameras would not have otherwise been eligible for CARES Act funding.

“I support the sheriff’s department getting cameras, but to use this money for something other CARES related expenses at this time, in the middle of the pandemic, might be putting the cart before the horse a little bit,” Bender said. “We still having testing and vaccinations to do. I think we need to be mindful of how we spend that money.”

“I want our law enforcement to have the protection of cameras,” Commissioner Doug Underhill said. “I think it is a totally appropriate CARES Act spend. I think it’s something, I applaud you for bringing this forward.”

“I understand it (the $25 million from CARES Act) was moved based on a deadline of December 31 to the general fund to cover for payroll, payroll that was already funded,” Simmons told commissioners. “So this is no longer CARES Act…these are millions of dollars that Escambia County has to decide what’s the best use for those. Some is CARES, some is items like this. My request is consider this as a higher priority as I do to go ahead and get these body cameras.”

Commissioner Steven Barry said he was not against using the funds that originated from the CARES ACT for the cameras, but he questioned the timing of the funding request and the ongoing expenses for operating the system.

“I like the idea. I didn’t think it should be on the agenda for today. I think you will find board support for this moving forward with this in the appropriate time,” Barry said. “It’s not been something that has been a priority to the office (the ECSO) previously.”

“This is money that’s available, that I understand is available, and it sounds like is available. And I think it’s high priority, so I felt like it was something I could ask for,” the sheriff said. “I understand your point about maybe not today, but I’m not one that waits. Again, I’ve been the sheriff for two weeks now, and I think that body cameras and transparency is that important. And that’s why I’m here.”

“I’m going to be supportive of body cameras,” Commissioner Lumon May told the sheriff. “This is something that is important, and it’s critical to you in your operations. Once get that money at the end of February, this will be a top priority for me because you said it is top priority for the safety of the officers and for the safety of our citizens.”

Simmons said he had money in his current overtime budget to fund five employees to process the body camera video footage and maintain the system. But he said he would need to work on a permanent funding solution from the next fiscal year’s budget.

The commission is expected to return to the body camera funding discussion in March after county staff provides further research.

“Quit frankly, I am not going to wait forever,” Simmons said.


32 Responses to “BOCC Agrees With Sheriff’s Request For Body Cameras, But They’re Not Sure How To Fund Them”

  1. Wayne on January 24th, 2021 5:06 pm

    @ Molino Girl
    You go girl, the sheriffs department did not know that.
    What you dont know is they already are!
    Best let the financial systems in place do their job that govern that.
    Not lay people.

  2. Molino Girl on January 23rd, 2021 11:52 pm

    Why can they not use some of the LETF money to fund part of the cost for the cameras? I mean if the previous sheriff could donate that money to Pensacola Opera and other non-public safety organizations and such during an election year (boy that was a real HUMDINGER) then I don’t see why some of those funds can’t be used for body cams. “5a” below where it says “providing additional equipment might cover it because the wording is a little vague.

    “The 2020 Florida Statutes

    Title XLVII
    Chapter 932
    View Entire Chapter
    932.7055 Disposition of liens and forfeited property.—
    (1) When a seizing agency obtains a final judgment granting forfeiture of real property or personal property, it may elect to:
    (a) Retain the property for the agency’s use;
    (b) Sell the property at public auction or by sealed bid to the highest bidder, except for real property which should be sold in a commercially reasonable manner after appraisal by listing on the market; or
    (c) Salvage, trade, or transfer the property to any public or nonprofit organization.
    (2) Notwithstanding subsection (1), a seizing agency must destroy any image and the medium on which the image is recorded, including, but not limited to, a photograph, video tape, diskette, compact disc, or fixed disk made in violation of s. 810.145 when the image and the medium on which it is recorded is no longer needed for an official purpose. The agency may not sell or retain any image.
    (3) If the forfeited property is subject to a lien preserved by the court as provided in s. 932.703(7)(b), the agency shall:
    (a) Sell the property with the proceeds being used towards satisfaction of any liens; or
    (b) Have the lien satisfied prior to taking any action authorized by subsection (1).
    (4) The proceeds from the sale of forfeited property shall be disbursed in the following priority:
    (a) Payment of the balance due on any lien preserved by the court in the forfeiture proceedings.
    (b) Payment of the cost incurred by the seizing agency in connection with the storage, maintenance, security, and forfeiture of such property.
    (c) Payment of court costs incurred in the forfeiture proceeding.
    (5)(a) If the seizing agency is a county or municipal agency, the remaining proceeds shall be deposited in a special law enforcement trust fund established by the board of county commissioners or the governing body of the municipality. Such proceeds and interest earned therefrom shall be used for school resource officer, crime prevention, safe neighborhood, drug abuse education and prevention programs, or for other law enforcement purposes, which include defraying the cost of protracted or complex investigations, providing additional equipment or expertise, purchasing automated external defibrillators for use in law enforcement vehicles, and providing matching funds to obtain federal grants. The proceeds and interest may not be used to meet normal operating expenses of the law enforcement agency.
    (b) These funds may be expended upon request by the sheriff to the board of county commissioners or by the chief of police to the governing body of the municipality, accompanied by a written certification that the request complies with the provisions of this subsection, and only upon appropriation to the sheriff’s office or police department by the board of county commissioners or the governing body of the municipality.”

  3. Mitchell Pollan on January 23rd, 2021 11:47 pm

    If Escambia County had had body cameras in 1986, it would most likely have saved the taxpayers over 100k in compensatory damages and attorneys fees regarding a civil lawsuit involving false arrest and false imprisonment as well as police misconduct. It came back to bite them!!!!!

  4. Steve on January 23rd, 2021 9:45 am

    Cameras gonna show just how terrible people are. Police have to deal with the worse type of people and still remain in control.
    Hope they live stream every second. People will get tired real quick of seeing how people waste the police officers time and resources. Which in turn keeps them from patrolling and keeping burglaries down. Can care less about the .00000000001% of time a officer is in the wrong.. The cost does not justify and the reality does not justify it either. Trust in the officers that you hire to do the job is all that is needed.

  5. SueB on January 23rd, 2021 9:41 am

    All you I.T’s, you know how computers/cameras work. So, apply for a job. FUND THIS REQUEST for the deputies & for the honest people including the thugs who say “I don’t have to do what you say cause I’m a . . . . .”

  6. Well on January 22nd, 2021 9:03 pm

    If it was Morgan asking most would be loosing their minds.
    You have a budget, spend it as you see best.

  7. Axon on January 22nd, 2021 8:06 pm

    Not only will they have to purchase the cameras and equipment but they will also have to pay to store all of the footage from the cameras. That is the expensive part.

  8. Joshua on January 22nd, 2021 6:50 pm

    The body cameras are awesome for officers to have. However, they are expensive and so is paying for the storage of data, docks, in-car docks, warranty’s, and maintenance on the cameras. They don’t break easy but it still happens often. Hopefully the county will find the funds or use grant money to get them.

  9. Marshall on January 22nd, 2021 6:32 pm

    Rufus Lowgun… I don’t think you understand from an I.T. perspective, what it would involve to have the cameras run, all of the time. Storing the data would require a huge amount of storage capacity, which is expensive. It, also, would have to be backed up, which would require even more storage capacity.

  10. Regina Duerr on January 22nd, 2021 5:53 pm

    $ 3400 rer camb is way to much….

  11. retired on January 22nd, 2021 5:43 pm

    @Frank Denali

    I know and understands how a budget works! I have to live within a budget. If I need extra I guess frank will give it to me?


  12. CW on January 22nd, 2021 4:48 pm

    The cameras cost $3,400 each? Wow!

  13. Wayne on January 22nd, 2021 2:07 pm

    After reading this forum for a while now I would conclude we should impose an idiot tax.
    Problem solved with tons of cash in reserve after reading the past months citizens comments the tax base would flourish.

    Whiner tax, I say!

  14. Donald W Cooper on January 22nd, 2021 2:02 pm

    $3400 per camera seems very excessive to me.

  15. Anne on January 22nd, 2021 1:40 pm

    How much does each County Commissioner have in “Discretionary Funds” from the Tourist Development Tax (TDT)??? At one time this was $50,000 annualy PER Commissioner.
    How much does each County Commissioner receive from the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST)??? At one time it was at least $1,000,000 One MILLION Dollars.
    How much does the Sheriff have in the “Law Enforcement Trust Fund”??? Monies from criminal and drug confiscations make up these funds.
    Seems that there is a lot of People’s Tax Money that could be used to buy and maintain the Body Cameras for our Law Enforcement Officers without seriously impacting the regular day-to-day works of the County Commission and Sheriff’s Office.

  16. Pete on January 22nd, 2021 1:34 pm

    Awesome job Chip! Let them know where you stand right off the bat. It’s truly a shame that you and the citizens have to put up with the County Clown Show.

  17. fltom on January 22nd, 2021 12:39 pm

    Would have been nice if the Pensacola City Council & Mayor had donated that money whicht they are going to spend on their gun buy back program that will get them lots of good press, but will have little effect on our serious problems…gangs & drugs

  18. Brandon on January 22nd, 2021 12:15 pm

    If that’s doesn’t smell like misappropriation of money I don’t know what does!

  19. Anon on January 22nd, 2021 12:11 pm

    I’m assuming ECSO is paying for some of them, considering Sheriff Simmons’ request only accounts for some 268 body cameras. ECSO has well over that amount sworn, around 400.

  20. concerned on January 22nd, 2021 11:35 am

    Retail price on a axon 3 is $699, an 8 bay dock is 1495, the aware annual fee is $108, the license is $120/yr, so the cost per unit is $1113.85 per camera up front with an annual recurring of $238/yr. And remember that’s full blown retail, no volume discounts factored. The price they are requesting from the county is over $3400/camera. What are we getting for the extra $614,000 Chip has requested, where is that money going?

  21. Frank Denali on January 22nd, 2021 11:09 am

    I dont think “retired” understands how a budget works LOL This is why we elected educated people.

  22. Julia Pearsall on January 22nd, 2021 11:09 am

    As one of over 300,000 citizens in this County I consider this to be a reasonable and essential expense. It’s way past time to have these cameras protecting the officers, the citizens and the community.

  23. DBM on January 22nd, 2021 10:31 am

    Good job Sheriff. Is it better to purchase these cameras or to get sued by a criminal?!

  24. David Greene on January 22nd, 2021 10:05 am

    Funny that someone like BENDER, who is in the Insurance business, who be hesitant on this subject, or s c r e w i n g people over is in his DNA.

  25. Pat on January 22nd, 2021 9:50 am

    Anyone else see a problem with spending $3,400 per camera?

    For half that we could buy a new iphone, a custom locked case, an unlimited data plan and live stream every one of them on youtube.

  26. Rufus Lowgun on January 22nd, 2021 9:48 am

    The body cameras should, of course, be funded. There should also be a department regulation that they must be on any and every time a deputy is on duty. It protects the cops, and it protects the public. Win win. There is no reason for those cameras to ever be turned off.

  27. SueB on January 22nd, 2021 9:47 am

    Idea, start charging Alabama people more taxes coming over to Florida to buy food, clothes, liquor, & sending their kids here in Florida for school., etc.
    There is money in both budgets. Find the hidden funds!

  28. SueB on January 22nd, 2021 9:32 am

    Use the CARE ACT there is money. Use the BP monies! Find the hidden monies in the County Commissioners Budget that they use to rob Peter to Pay Paul.
    But people need to obey the laws.

  29. retired on January 22nd, 2021 9:03 am


    stop running adds

  30. Raymond F Sullivan on January 22nd, 2021 9:01 am

    Sherrif Simmons You Rock

  31. Paul on January 22nd, 2021 8:41 am

    If they save them from one lawsuit they would pay for themselves.
    Cameras make everybody honest. The film doesn’t lie.

  32. Kk on January 22nd, 2021 5:51 am

    They can fund some of them with the $10,000 left over from the gun buy back program.

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