By Alyssa Schnugg
Oxford Interim Police Chief Jeff McCutchen told the Board of Aldermen Tuesday that he made some cuts to his budget so he could include a $184K purchase that would outfit all officers with Tasers and body cameras.
The five-year contract, at $184,000 a year, is with Axon – the company that first distributed Tasers. Along with the Tasers and bodycams, McCutchen said Axon would provide software and in-car dash cameras.
The software would not only record and upload videos to a “cloud” but it can tell when and if an officer turns off their cam. It would also allow bodycams and dash cams to be turned on automatically when arriving on the scene.
“Say there is a shoplifting at Walmart called in. A Geofence would go around that area and as soon as an officer arrived, his camera would turn on,” McCutchen told the Board of Aldermen.
He said there were 25 complaints against police officers last year; however, 23 of those complaints were exonerated due to watching bodycam footage. Two of the complaints were shown to have some validity because of the ability to watch the videos.
Being able to supply all officers with a Taser is also something McCutchen said would be a good step for OPD.
“Right now, some officers do not have a non-lethal option,” he said.
The Board of Aldermen has been meeting with department heads for two weeks to go over budgets and requests. The board will vote on the budget in September.
The entire budget presented Tuesday by OPD was for $7,789,964, down from last year’s budget of $7,841,429. The budget figure includes the cost of the contract with Axon.
“This is something our department would really benefit from,” McCutchen said. “I made some changes to make sure it would fit within our budget.”
One of the changes is reducing the number of new patrol cars this year from eight to seven vehicles.
McCutchen is also asking to retire one K9 and purchase another one for $10,000.
He said the department is seeking a single-purpose K9, which means the dog would be trained in search and rescue and drug detection – not trained to attack and bite. Dogs trained to bite and search are referred to as double-purpose K9s.
“We are trying to move toward a more community-friendly K9 that can do the job but also be approachable and safe,” he said.
McCutchen said many police departments are now moving away from having all K9s able to attack and bite because it can open a department up for lawsuits.
“If we’re wrong and a dog does damage, that could be a problem,” he said.
He also said that in Oxford, while it has its fair share of criminal behavior, generally doesn’t warrant having multiple, double-purpose K9s.
“We will still have two (double-purpose K9s) that we can get to a scene quickly if we need them,” he said.
The Board of Aldermen will meet again on Friday to further review department budgets.