While no decisions have been finalized, the Pettis County Commissioners are discussing the purchase of body cameras and recording equipment for use by the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office, according to Presiding Commissioner David Dick.
A number of citizens have questioned why the deputies have no body cameras or dash cameras following the death of Hannah Fizer on June 13. A deputy shot and killed 25-year-old Fizer following a traffic stop. She reportedly did not comply with officer requests and allegedly said she had a gun and was going to shoot the deputy during the traffic stop. A later search of the vehicle found no gun in Fizer’s car.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol Drug and Crime Division, which is leading the investigation, has obtained video of the incident from a business near the stop but to date, no other video or audio recordings have surfaced. Additional search warrants have been issued by the investigators to obtain Fizer’s cellphone. Fizer allegedly told the deputy she was recording the stop on her phone.
As recently as three years ago, the sheriff’s office had 10 body cameras that were funded through the remaining fund balances in the sheriff’s office budget in 2016 at a cost of $15,000.
The sheriff's office acquired the cameras in 2017.
Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond told the Democrat via email June 17, “We were able to purchase 10 body cameras and they were operational about a year when we experienced a hard-drive failure, which disabled not only our data files but also the operating system to download, manage and play the video from the cameras.
“The cost to replace the operating system was not allowable in the budget, nor was there enough funds left at the end of the year to address the system,” Bond added.
According to Dick, the commissioners were never informed of the operational and hard drive failures. Dick also noted Bond has not formally requested recording devices in the six years he has served on the commission.
“Had we been made aware of the failure when it occurred we would have funded the repairs or replacement, whichever would have been more cost-effective,” Dick explained.
Since Fizer’s death, a number of protests have occurred at the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office and on the grounds of the Pettis County Courthouse. One of the organizers of the protests, Shawn Sims, met with the commissioners June 19 seeking answers as to why the sheriff’s office had no cameras or other recording devices such as dash cameras.
In a video post on his Facebook page, Sims described the meeting as productive, as did Dick.
“The meeting with Shawn was good,” Dick noted. “He asked real questions and we answered his questions honestly. We were glad to make contact with him.”
Dick explained he and Western Commissioner Jim Marcum and Eastern Commissioner Israel Baeza have met to discuss purchasing new equipment for the sheriff's office. Both Bond and Pettis County IT Director Luke Goosen will be part of the discussion as well.
“Our IT Department will be a big part of the process,” Dick commented. “Sheriff Bond will be involved so as to get what will work for the deputies. We want to get good equipment that is usable and robust in the field and will be in use for the long term.”
Bond has not requested replacement or additional cameras for the office since the 2017 purchase. As the Democrat reported June 17, it is the responsibility of each county department to present their budget requests to the commission during budget hearings, which are typically set for the first week in November. Following discussion with the departments, commissioners then approve or deny the funding requests. The budget is made public for 10 days in December for citizen review before its final approval.
According to Dick, there is no firm date for the purchase of the new equipment, which will be funded through a budget adjustment and general revenue funds.