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St. Joseph County Council approves new sheriff’s fees

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Justin Hicks
/
WVPE News

The St. Joseph County Council approved a pair of resolutions Tuesday that allow the County Sheriff to charge new fees.

The first is a $75 fee for officers’ assistance with physical evictions.

County police are obligated to visit a property when a landlord has obtained a court order for eviction. But sheriff’s department attorney Troy Warner said “50 to 60 percent of the time,” nobody shows up.

“Either the tenant has already got the notice and has left, or they were at the court hearing and were told to vacate, or the landlord doesn’t show,” he said. “So they often go out to these properties — in essence, wasting their time and our county resources in doing so.”

Warner said the $75 fee would compensate for those resources, and that at least four neighboring counties charge similar fees.

The second fee applies to public records requests for officers’ body camera footage. The department could charge up to $150 dollars for labor costs associated with preparing the tape for release.

Warner said state law requires officers to review all video and “blur, redact or mute” 24 different categories of information, including nudity, personal medical information and violence resulting in bodily injury.

“This is a fee we think is necessary to promote the efficient use of county time and resources, and also to limit frivolous or fishing expeditions,” he said.

The department would charge $25 recording, with an additional $20 charge for every 30 extra minutes of preparation time.

The sheriff’s department is in the process of implementing new dashboard and body cameras. Warner said the fees are only meant to cover anticipated labor costs for reviewing and preparing the tape.

“We’re nowhere near recouping our real cost,” Warner told the council Tuesday. “There’s tech costs, data — we’re paying for storage of all this in the cloud, and the cameras are, like, three grand.”

Any fees collected won’t go directly to the sheriff’s department, but rather, to the county’s general fund.

Both resolutions received unanimous approval from the council.

Contact Gemma at gdicarlo@wvpe.org or follow her on Twitter at @gemma_dicarlo.

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Gemma DiCarlo comes to Indiana by way of Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and certificates in New Media and Sustainability. She has radio experience from her time as associate producer of Athens News Matters, the flagship public affairs program at WUGA-FM.