All Sandy Springs Police patrol officers will start wearing body cameras sometime in the next fiscal year, according to Police Chief Ken DeSimone.

The 80 body cameras–one for each patrol officer–are included in the city’s proposed fiscal year 2017 budget, City Manager John McDonough noted during a May 17 budget presentation at City Hall.

The police department has previously expressed hesitation about body cameras for reasons of privacy concerns and public criticism. But more recently, the department has been field-testing various body cameras. Sometime in fiscal 2017, which begins in July, the department will deploy them, even though some policy and technical questions currently remain unanswered, DeSimone said after the budget hearing.

“It’s the wave of the future,” DeSimone said, noting some state Legislature efforts to mandate police body cameras.

“It does have a lot of privacy concerns,” and such technical issues as storage costs, DeSimone said. On the other hand, he said, he believes the city and department can adapt to those concerns. In the era of cell phones with high-quality video capability, he noted, “Everybody’s got a body camera on ’em” already.

Dunwoody Police officers started wearing body cameras last year, and Atlanta Police officers likely would be wearing them now if it wasn’t for a lawsuit filed by a body camera company alleging an unfair city bidding process.

The Sandy Springs cameras are included in an overall 6 percent police budget boost, to a total of about $20.8 million, proposed by the city in its fiscal 2017 budget. The police budget includes several other “enhancements,” including some new staff positions, replacement patrol vehicles and new bulletproof vests, among other items. The city’s proposed $103.6 million budget requires two public hearings before City Council approval late next month.

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.

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