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Supervisors vote to close body camera donation account for Augusta County Sheriff’s Office

Board of Supervisors, Augusta County
Board of Supervisors, Augusta County(WHSV)
Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 12:38 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - For over a year, there have been calls for the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office to get body and dash cameras, but due to expenses, it was not included in the budget.

Discussions on the cameras continue as some community members urge county leaders to include the expense in the county’s next budget.

In May, the majority of the Board of Supervisors voted to start an account to allow the public to contribute to body and dash cameras for the sheriff’s office, but Wednesday night, the board voted to rescind that account. Supervisor Scott Seaton was the only one to oppose, while Supervisor Pam Carter abstained from the vote.

“In no way did [Augusta County Sheriff Donald Smith] or anybody in his department ask for the GoFundMe or for any donations to be given to this,” Supervisor Steve Morelli previously said, after his motion to rescind the vote.

Before a vote was made, the board heard from Sheriff Smith who explained that he does want body cameras, but it is not a top priority when other problems in Augusta County need to be solved, like raising wages for deputies and ECC personnel, adding more school resource officers in schools, and updating the radio system.

He also said that he does not want to take money from some people or organizations that he claims played a role in people protesting outside the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office since May 2021.

Sheriff Smith claimed in Wednesday’s meeting that some protesters were following deputies to their homes, Smith’s home, and his family’s, as well as spreading false rumors about him to the community.

“It concerns me and it should concern every one of you,” Sheriff Smith said to the board. “I have absolutely no desire to take one penny from Nexus, Black Lives Matter, their protesters, or whatever name they choose [to use].”

He went on to explain that the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office does not have the infrastructure or manpower in place to effectively use the cameras.

“This is a taxpayer issue. It requires sustainability, not a donations account. I stood right here and told you if we go down this road, we can’t back up... If we put this in place, we need to do it the right way,” Sheriff Smith said.

“I‘m asking [the board] to open your eyes. We have a lot of issues in front of us that we need to do. if you want to support the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office, you want to support me, the men and women that keep this county safe, put your head in the air and close this account.”

Supervisor Scott Seaton, who made the motion to allow public funding, previously told WHSV that if the Board of Supervisors closes the account, he believed it would be a, “black eye on Augusta County.”

“I think a vote to rescind the motion is a vote against our law enforcement. It’s a vote against our safety. It’s a vote against our transparency,” Seaton said. “You can’t say you are for body cameras and vote to rescind because that is logically incoherent. If you are for body-worn cameras, you should seek any funding of the cameras that will reduce the tax burden on residents.”

The County Administrator said at the meeting that this public account has several thousand dollars in it from several donors.

Several community members spoke in favor of the body cameras and others in support of holding off on funding the cameras for now.

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