From joining a national initiative to equip law enforcement officers with body cameras to setting up new radio towers in remote areas of the county, the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office expects to stay busy in the new year.
In the wake of national protests over the shooting death of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer, President Barack Obama proposed a spending package that would include $75 million to help pay for body cameras for police officers nationwide, according to the Associated Press.
Natrona County Sheriff Gus Holbrook is already testing cameras for his deputies in the hope that grant money will be available in the future.
The sheriff’s office also plans to ask the Natrona County Commission for money to purchase body cameras.
“I think it’s another tool that we can use for law enforcement,” Holbrook said. “When you’re away from your vehicle itself, it gives you another view besides the dash cam.”
All 23 counties in Wyoming have switched from the old sex offender registry to OffenderWatch as part of a push to have all jurisdictions nationwide using the same program to track offenders.
“It has all of the same information but more,” said sheriff's Sgt. John Becker.
Using the website, residents can confidentially register their address to be monitored by the sheriff’s office, which will send an email alerting them if an offender registers an address close to their home.
Citizens can also send anonymous messages on the website with tips or concerns about sex offenders. The messages are forwarded directly to law enforcement.
The system, if expanded nationwide, would allow law enforcement to track sex offenders seamlessly if they move from one jurisdiction to another.
A new radio tower was erected on Pathfinder Road last month to fill a communication gap in the county.
Holbrook said the tower could aid in search and rescue missions, especially during the summer, when the area is more populated.
The sheriff said the tower would have helped during a search for an escaped fugitive last year.
Kenneth James Ward escaped when an inmate transportation company stopped at the Independence Rock rest area along U.S. Highway 220 south of Casper.
Natrona County sheriff’s deputies searched for the fugitive, but Ward was never found.
“Deputies couldn’t speak to dispatch,” Holbrook said. “It didn’t hinder the search, but it would have aided if we had better radio communication.”
The tower, which was paid for with the optional 1-cent tax receipts, has been in the works for two years. The sheriff’s office is looking to have another tower built in the northwest part of the county.