Dan Springer

Gallatin County Sheriff Dan Springer

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The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office is always looking for ways to improve upon the exceptional service we provide to our citizens. With the help of the Gallatin County Commission, we are excited to provide a new tool for our deputies to do just that.

Since 2014, I have been looking at the possibility of using body-worn cameras (BWC) for the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office. The expense of the hardware was one barrier, but the primary issue was the cost of the electronic storage.

Electronic storage costs remain expensive, but our current technology allows us to use cloud-based storage today. With this option, your Gallatin County Commissioners and I believe it’s the right time to reconsider purchasing these cameras.

The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office has maintained a high level of trust with this community. This is based upon our ability to communicate, our transparency, and our capacity to deliver exceptional service. BWCs continue this long-standing process of building and maintaining trust. I know our deputies strive to always do the right thing, at the right time, in the right way, for the right reasons. Having the ability to gather evidence that helps describe events as they unfold is invaluable to deputies and to the public. Collecting visual and audio material holds deputies accountable and, just as importantly, holds those we serve accountable.

There are also limitations to body cameras. These cameras are a two-dimensional tool. They don’t scan like a person’s eyes do. They don’t hear everything the human ear hears. And they don’t have senses that inform judgment as a deputy does.

Deputies rely on their training, knowledge and experience to decipher what is happening during an incident. There is no substitution for a well-trained deputy with the ability to make instantaneous decisions in a compressed time frame with extreme consequences. Body cameras allow all of us who weren’t present a partial glimpse into the scenario unfolding before them. However, I caution everyone to recognize the limitations of body cameras and to not draw conclusions before hearing from those who were actually there.

BWCs have proven to be an asset time and again across this nation. I, along with your Gallatin County Commissioners, recognize the value of these cameras and have agreed to fund the purchase and implementation of these new cameras as part of this year’s county budget.

This will take time as we work through creating policies and procedures, figuring out video retrieval and dissemination, and other logistical matters. The ability to use evidence gathered during deputy interactions is worth every dollar. It protects those who have sworn to protect you, and gives them another tool to continue delivering the type of service expected of them.

As always, if you would like to discuss this topic further or have other questions, please feel free to contact me at 406-582-2125 or Dan.Springer@gallatin.mt.gov

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Dan Springer is the Gallatin County sheriff.

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