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Erie County Sheriff's Office to receive funding for body cams

Thomas O'Neil-White

A contentious public safety hearing of the Erie County Legislature Thursday morning ended up with all parties satisfied and a plan in place for sheriff's deputies to wear body cameras by the end of 2019.

The Legislature approved $600,000 in funding for a body camera system for the Sheriff’s Department patrols earlier this year, butthere were concerns the money would be used for something other than body cameras.

“The sheriff has been over to the Legislature multiple times to talk about body cameras and he’s over-communicated that they are not a priority,” said Legislative Chair April Baskin. “That is why we’re in the situation now with the Legislature issuing the money in the first place.”

Credit Thomas O'Neil-White
Erie County Legislative Chairwoman April Baskin

The money had been with the Department of Information and Support Services. The Sheriff’s Office indicated it was wary of the DISS, but received assurances from the Legislature that DISS would have neither control nor access to any images or audio captured by the cameras.

With the issue resolved, the Legislature will transfer the money to Sheriff Timothy Howard’s department when the sheriff has a proposed body camera vendor.

“That assurance from this honorable body will get this process completed,” said Executive Assistant to the Sheriff Scott Zylka. “We’re at the threshold of initiating this.”

The Legislature goes into recess in August. The Sheriff’s Office is expected to have a proposal for a vendor in September, at which point the money will be transferred to the Sheriff’s Office. Zylka says nothing was ever stalled and they are still on their correct timeline.

Credit Thomas O'Neil-White
Erie County Sheriff Executive Assistant Scott Zylka

“Right now there’s been no delays, so we’re right on time.” He said. “The entities came together.”

The body cameras are expected to be used by patrols by the end of this year.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.
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