The Wood County Sheriff’s Office is preparing to upgrade its technology with new body cameras and hybrid vehicles.
In a presentation to the Wood County Commissioners on Tuesday, Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said both purchases will make the department more efficient.
The cost for the camera system, which includes 44 body cameras and 34 vehicle dash cameras, is $408,000.
“It’s truly beneficial. There were many situations where people would make false accusations against a deputy and we were able to show them what actually happened,” he said. “It’s been very good for us.”
The sheriff’s office has had body cameras for eight years and was a leader in the area for getting them first, Wasylyshyn said. The current cameras have aged out of technology support and must be replaced, he said.
“The issue is not the camera itself,” he said. “It’s all the back-end stuff. … We’re Band-Aiding it until we get the new cameras.”
Wasylyshyn said a committee was formed and the members approached a half dozen companies for bids. They all agreed on the new camera system from Gtech.
“They were not the most expensive one,” he said.
The new cameras will upload to a cloud, which will make it easier for staff and the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office to get content. It will also be less challenging to redact information, such as juveniles or witnesses, from the new cameras, Wasylyshyn said.
The vehicle dash cameras will also be on this system, said Lt. Rod Konrad,
Footage is constantly being requested, he said, and two staff members almost constantly work on this, making DVDs.
“The new system would be they’re just clicking and putting the videos together and then giving a link to the prosecutor or whoever needs it,” Konrad said. “It’s going to save a lot of time.”
When the light bars are activated in the vehicles, the cameras kick on and go back 30 seconds, he said. When the light bars are turned off, the in-car camera footage is immediately uploaded. There will be a dock in the cruisers for the body cameras, Konrad said.
“The key is it automatically uploads,” Wasylyshyn said.
The body cameras will be for deputies, including those at the Wood County Courthouse, and detectives.
The life of the cameras is expected to be about five years and have a warranty.
Wasylyshyn added that there is a push from federal and state governments to have the cameras, but he does not expect any money to fund them.
“It sounds to me like a necessity,” said Commissioner Ted Bowlus.
“You have to have them in this day and age,” Konrad said.
The commissioners are expected to approve paying $260,089 in year one for the cameras, plus four additional annual payments of of $36,980.
Commissioner Craig LaHote suggested looking into the hybrid vehicles, Wasylyshyn said.
“I hadn’t even thought about it because I always thought hybrid is more for in town, city driving and not benefiting ours, which is more rural, out-in-the-open driving,” he said. “I did some checking and … actually there are some very impressive numbers.”
Two years ago, 5% of vehicles ordered for law enforcement were hybrid, Wasylyshyn said. In 2020, that number was 30%. Area agencies that use them are Perrysburg and Bowling Green, he said.
“It’s definitely the direction everyone is going,” Wasylyshyn said.
There is a higher upfront cost, around $3,200 per vehicle. The sheriff’s office usually orders six vehicles per year.
The new hybrid vehicles for the department would be Ford Explorers, replacing the Dodge Durango SUVs, which have been bought the last few years.
The hybrid electric motor is expected to get over 40 miles per gallon, which will be savings in the long term, Konrad said.
“They will save quite a bit of money,” Konrad said. “They will save in gas … within two years they will have paid themselves off.”
The hybrids are not plugged in for charging, he added. They charge off the gas engine.
They run on the hybrid motor until they get over 40 miles per hour and run for three hours on a charge, Konrad said.
Ford has an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty on the hybrid.
Wasylyshyn said the current vehicles get around 16 miles per gallon and the hybrid Fords are getting around 24.
“That’s a significant difference,” he said. “The cost savings is definitely there.”
The 2021 budget has $180,000 for six sheriff vehicles. An extra $36,414 would be needed for the hybrids. The vehicles will be ordered before May.
“If you all are willing to take the chance, we’re willing to take the chance,” Wasylyshyn said.
“It’s a good deal,” said Commissioner Doris Herringshaw.
LaHote said there will also be emissions savings.
“It’s the right thing to do and it saves the county money,” Wasylyshyn said.
The sheriff’s office has a tremendous relationship with the county engineer’s office for vehicle maintenance, including oil changes, that saves around $10,000 annually, the sheriff added.