Monroe County’s sheriff, Brad Swain, appeared in front of the county board of commissioners on Wednesday morning to ask them to approve $6,850 to install four microphones on the first floor of the jail.
With the purchase came the news that body cameras will be worn by a limited number of jail staff.
Commissioners approved the purchase on a 3–0 vote. Board president Julie Thomas asked Swain to pass along thanks from the commissioners to the jail staff. Swain returned the compliment, saying that he knew as sheriff that when he had a legitimate request, he would get support from the commissioners.
Swain told them the cost was a “fantastic bargain,” because it would help limit the number of claims potentially made against jail staff by arriving inmates who are in the first, temporary phases of incarceration. Microphone locations include: the booking door; booking; holding cell; and drunk tank.
The microphones will supplement the video cameras at the jail, which was a roughly $300,000 system approved by the commissioners a few years ago, Swain said. The camera system had eliminated some lawsuits, Swain said, by documenting things that contradicted claims about what had happened.
Swain said that when it’s known that recording devices are in place, it improves behavior on both sides, and helps discourage people from embellishing their descriptions of what happened.
The microphones are being purchased from Security Automation Systems, the same company that installed the video cameras.
Unlike the video system, which records continuously, the audio recording will be activated manually, Swain said. As one example, he said the recording would start when an officer opens a door to go into an area that is equipped with a microphone. Swain said it might take a short while for jail staff to develop the “muscle memory” to get accustomed to using the system.
Swain told The Beacon that the body cameras would be worn only by some staff, who work in locations where inmates are temporarily housed when they first arrive. By week’s end, Swain told commissioners, a policy on use of microphones, as well as body-worn cameras, would be completed.
Such a policy is needed, according to the meeting information packet, “to protect those who are showering, using the bathroom, and meeting with legal counsel.”
Swain told The Beacon that body cameras had been used by officers on patrol for the sheriff’s department since about 2015.