Ludowici police officers will soon have a new piece of equipment — body-worn cameras — when they are on duty.
Ludowici City Council voted unanimously last week to purchase body-worn cameras.
Police Chief Robert Poppell said the city will purchase two cameras and the software for downloading video from them for a total of $1,930.
He said the cameras will have an internal memory that cannot be removed to ensure the security of video. The cameras will mount to an officer’s clothing with a magnetic-locking back.
Several of his officers have their own cameras, Poppell said, but they will not be authorized to wear them until he writes a protocol for their usage.
Poppell said some advantages of having the cameras are that they provide a second set of eyes to what is taking place, they record and preserve evidence for criminal cases, and they ensure accountability for both the officer and the public. The federal government has recommended that all agencies begin having officers wear them.
The city will purchase the cameras from Watch Guard. They have high-quality microphones and adjustable rotating lenses, the chief said.
“We just want to protect our citizens’ rights and also our officers,” Poppell said. “Having these cameras will help us to protect the city from the possibility of someone making a false accusation and then trying to sue us.”
Poppell also told the council that the department’s current fingerprinting machine will be obsolete in December because it will no longer be able to be updated. The cost for a new fingerprinting machine is $18,000, but Poppell recommended purchasing a palm-printing machine for $21,000.
He said he has applied for a grant to help pay for a new machine, but there is no guarantee that the city will receive it.
After a brief discussion, the council decided that it would hold off on authorizing any purchase.
In other public-safety news, Al Groover, who is the membership sales manager for AirMedCare, asked the council to consider paying for all city residents to be enrolled in the emergency medical-transportation system.
The company works with AirEvac Lifeteam, and the cost to provide the service would be $6,688, or $11.05 per household. He said that if the city did provide the service, a Ludowici resident could be airlifted from an emergency anywhere in the county to a hospital at no cost.
Groover added that residents who want to upgrade their membership to cover them from anywhere in the U.S. they would be able to do so for $35 annually.
The council did not take action on the proposal.
Long County Library Board Chairman Brent Klinedinst asked the council for an additional $6,000 to help pay for the library’s services.
The library is slated to have a $48,000 shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year, he said, adding that the library is funded only by the Long County Board of Commissioners, Long County Board of Education and the city of Ludowici.
Library manager Tammy Goober said library usage has continually grown and, based on the visits through June, more than 24,000 people are expected to use it this year. In May alone, she said, 2,043 people used some of the library’s services, and 520 had used its computers.
Mayor James Fuller said the city currently gives the library $6,744, but because of budget restraints, he did not see any way where it could give the $6,000 requested.
After a brief discussion, the council approved unanimously raising its contribution to $9,744, an increase of $3,000.