Greenville Co. sheriff discusses body cam problems

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GREENVILLE CO., S.C. (WSPA) – Greenville County Sheriff Will Lewis has met with representatives from Panasonic to discuss the technical glitches plaguing hundreds of body cameras currently in use.

Panasonic has agreed to replace all of the nearly 300 body cameras after Sheriff Will Lewis complained to us that the cameras were defective.

7News learned an officer who wore the camera during its pilot program complained about those issues last year.

It was just two weeks ago Greenville County deputies received their $1,000 cameras. The Panasonic Arbitrator body cameras were widely touted as being among the best.

But it became apparent the cameras were not up to par.

“We’re lucky if we’re getting four hours out of these things. Sometimes they’re not even holding the charge at all,” Sheriff Will Lewis said.

He said the problems last week included shortened battery life, wires blowing out and the cameras not fitting properly on the deputies’ bodies.

This week, he met with Panasonic. Representatives told him other agencies have had no problems with the Arbitrators. The company is now taking action.

“They’ve agreed to get us those body cameras and let us do the pilot with those body cameras like we’re supposed to. They’ve also agreed to replace all of the body cameras that we currently have with the new generation that’s coming out.”

7News has learned these problems existed last year. This report was written by an officer who used them in the pilot program.

He wrote the primary issues with the cameras right now is that the battery is taking forever to charge and going dead even quicker.

It’s unclear whether this information was known by then-Sheriff Steve Loftis who was responsible for the purchase of the Panasonic Arbitrators.

Right now, Sheriff Lewis is piloting another camera by the company taser and he is pleased with its performance.

“Why not just cancel the contract with Panasonic all together and go full taser? I would love to be able to do that, however, legally, I can’t just stop it.”

The lawyer for the Sheriff’s Office confirms that.

“Generally, most contracts have a right to cure provision which says that we have to notify you of the problem and we have to give you a reasonable opportunity to fix the problem prior to simply canceling the contract,” said Lance Sheek with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office.

We reached out to former Sheriff Steve Loftis and Panasonic for comment about the problems with these body cameras.

We were unable to reach Loftis and Panasonic did not return our emails.

Sheriff Lewis says Panasonic’s new cameras should be in within 30 days.

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