Archive for Thursday, February 8, 2007

Jail surveillance system to be upgraded

February 8, 2007

Closed-circuit television monitoring at the Leavenworth County Justice Center and Leavenworth County Jail is about to take a giant step forward.

Leavenworth County commissioners on Thursday approved plans to upgrade and expand the closed-circuit TV system at the center and its jail. Cost of the project was put just under $57,000 and will include 32 additional digital cameras, two digital video recorders and six new color monitors.

"The purpose is to help us and to enhance the safety and security of the facility, the movement of inmates, the conduct of inmates, conduct with employees, and we're prepared to move forward," Sheriff Dave Zoellner told Commissioners Clyde Graeber and Dean Oroke. Commission chairman J.C. Tellefson was out of town.

Funding for the project will come from $73,000 the sheriff's office has set aside for capital improvements the past two years.

Before giving their consent, Graeber and Oroke had several questions for Zoellner, Undersheriff Ron Cranor and Sgt. Larry Eyerly, who have spent time the past two years studying closed-circuit systems for the department.

Graeber wondered how the new system would be integrated if commissioners eventually approve plans for expansion of the work release area at the jail. Zoellner said the cost of closed-circuit cameras would be included in the cost for the expansion and was not part of the plan offered Thursday. Eyerly said the system would accommodate additional cameras.

Oroke questioned the sheriff's team about the location of 26 current cameras at the Justice Center and jail. Eyerly said many of them are on access doors in the center.

The new cameras, he said, would cover many more areas of the jail not now covered. Plus, it would allow Web users with password codes, such as the jail administrator or sheriff, to view monitors from any computer with an Internet hookup.

In addition to the new cameras, the proposal also calls for the installation of four microphones that would pick up and record conversations in the jail's intake area. Many times, Eyerly said, newly arrested people make incriminating statements in the room. The recordings then could be used as evidence.

Oroke asked whether the cameras or microphones could be challenged as undue invasions of privacy. The officers convinced him the system met constitutional mettle.

"We're not putting these cameras up there to take (inmates') privacy away. We're putting them up there as assurance that our officers and inmates are safe and our facilities are secure," said Wade Schmierer, jail administrator.

Larry Malbrough, the county's information systems director, worked with Eyerly and Cranor in determining which system would be best. Malbrough told commissioners the selected system could be used as a building block upon which to extend closed-circuit monitoring to most any county building.

"This is not just the jail or just the Justice Center that's gaining," he said.

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