Board approves purchase of body cameras for deputies

Published 10:21 pm Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the purchase of body cameras for the Sheriff’s Office’s patrol deputies and deputies serving in the jail.

The purchase, for a little more than $36,000, covers 14 cameras that will go on deputies who work out on the road, along with seven that will be used on detention deputies in the jail  and one spare, said Freeborn County Sheriff Kurt Freitag. There will also be two transfer stations — one for deputies in the jail and one for patrol deputies — for the transfer of data from the cameras.

The patrol deputies will have their own docking stations for recharging. 

Freitag said last week the cameras — provided by Watchguard, the same company that provides in-car cameras for the Sheriff’s Office — are expected to be smaller than a bank card and would help prove cases or resolve deputy conduct complaints.

“The climate has never been more right for this for the protection of our officers,” Commissioner Dan Belshan said during the meeting.

Belshan said the cameras are “a must” to protect against lawsuits that may come in the future.

Freeborn County Administrator Tom Jensen said he expects in the future that the cameras may be mandated and thinks they will be a “huge benefit” to the county’s liability to have the cameras.

Freitag said in addition to helping the county’s liability, the cameras will provide more evidence to support cases the county investigates and the county will be able to show footage from them in court.

Commissioners Glen Mathiason, Jim Nelson, Chris Shoff and Belshan voted in favor of the cameras. 

Fifth Ward Commissioner Mike Lee was unable to attend the meeting.

In other action, the board:

• Accepted the resignation of jail deputy Dave Kosch and voted to fill the position.

• Voted 4-0 to approve updates to the indoor shooting range for about $54,000.

Freitag said the upgrades greatly enhance safety in the range and include a new target retrieval system, which is “head and shoulders” above the current system in place.

The vote had to come to the board because it was greater than $25,000 and was not budgeted for.

The city of Albert Lea is expected to pay half the costs, though it is unclear when the city will approve those funds.

• Voted to change the parent visitor position from a part-time para-professional to a registered nurse.

Public Health Director Sue Yost said due to the implementation of the evidence-based family home visiting grant from the Minnesota Department of Health, the county is now affiliated with Healthy Families America. As an affiliate, the county is able to bill Medical Assistance for $140 plus nominal fees for each nurse visit. The county is not able to bill for para-professionals to do the visits. Multiple grants are being used to pay for the position.

The board also voted to fill that position.

• Voted to create and fill a full-time position for a nurse for the family home visiting program.

• Approved a maintenance and support agreement between Conduent State and Local Solutions Inc. and Minnesota Counties Computer Cooperative on behalf of the Community Health Services User Group that Freeborn County is a part of. The agreement is effective from Jan. 1, 2019, through Dec. 31, 2021, with up to two automatic additional one-year extensions.

• Approved an agreement between Freeborn, Dodge, Steele, Rice, Wabasha, Goodhue and Winona counties for the grant the county is collaborating on from the Department of Health for evidence-based family home visiting.

• Approved repairs to the county drainage system.