Turlock eyes providing its officers with body cameras

The Turlock Police Department is poised to join other Stanislaus County law enforcement agencies in equipping its officers with body cameras.

The City Council on Tuesday will consider approving an agreement with Axon Enterprises that would cost about $900,000 over five years to provide police officers with body cameras, new tasers and other upgrades.

This comes as Turlock looks at reductions to police and fire services to balance its general fund as part of its 2019-20 budget, which starts July 1. The roughly $40 million general fund primarily pays for public safety. The proposed reductions include closing one of the city’s four fire stations about a third of the time.

But the Police Department would use the state funding it receives from Proposition 172 — a half-cent sales tax approved by voters statewide in 1993 for public safety — and the Supplemental Law Enforcement Services Fund to pay for the body cameras, tasers and other upgrades. Police Chief Nino Amirfar said the general fund would not be used.

A report to the City Council from Amirfar states that body cameras benefit the police and the public. The cameras would help police review critical incidents, investigate resident complaints, improve training and provide more evidence for prosecutors. They also would give the public more insight.

“The Turlock Police Department takes great pride in its relationship with the community, however, the lack of body cameras is a tool that can help to ensure that relationship,” according to the report.

The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department and the Modesto, Ceres and Oakdale police departments already use body cameras.

Law enforcement agencies have wide latitude in how they spend Proposition 172 and Supplemental Law Enforcement Services Fund dollars. But the funding is intended to supplement and not replace existing services, according to Michael Coleman, an expert in municipal financing and a consultant to the League of California Cities.

“These sources would not be a way to fix a general fund problem,” Coleman said in a phone interview.

The City Council meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the Yosemite Room at City Hall, 156 South Broadway.