SIERRA VISTA — If you come in contact with a Cochise County Sheriff’s deputy for any reason, be assured your encounter will now be recorded.
For the last two weeks, deputies have been wearing Axon body cameras on the front of their uniforms. So far, 60 deputies are outfitted with the cameras, mounted inside a small black box. That includes members of the Sheriff’s Street Crimes and K-9 units, Sheriff’s spokeswoman Carol Capas said.
While the cameras have been in use for two weeks, a written departmental policy on how to use them has not been finalized, however.
Capas said the policy is in draft form and should be completed soon. A written policy on the use of the cameras dictates when a body camera should be turned on and off, for example. A policy also includes a retention schedule for body camera video and whether the video is public record, among other things.
Sierra Vista Police officers have been wearing their body cameras for two and a half years and their policy states that officers must turn them on the moment they have a call for service or are interacting with the public, said Chief Adam Thrasher.
Although the policy has not been formally finalized, Sheriff Mark Dannels said his department’s policy mirrors Sierra Vista’s.
That means when a deputy answers a call for service or comes in contact with the public, the body camera must be turned on. It cannot be turned off until the call ends.
“We wanted a consistent policy (in the county),” the sheriff said.
Over the last several years, there have been stories in the media regarding law enforcement officers across the country who responded to calls for service that went awry and later had no body camera video to show for it because the officer did not turn on the body camera.
Capas said the body cameras will eventually turn on automatically anytime they’re within 30 feet of an activated Taser. Currently only detention officer’s body cameras have that capability though.
She said that “for the most part,” deputies have embraced the technology.
“Being in rural Cochise County there’s a lot of times you’re by yourself,” Capas said. “On a traffic stop, you’re by yourself. If you go to any type of a call that could turn into something completely different than what you anticipated, it’s a good thing to have them.”
“Some (deputies) were so excited they got their own body cameras,” Capas added. “As long as you understand the dynamic and the purpose of it — which is to keep them (deputies) safe and to keep the citizens safe, everybody seems to be good with that.”
A handful of Sierra Vista officers, also enthused about body cameras, purchased their own before the department got them officially, Thrasher said. The agency also has 60 body cameras — one for every uniformed cop up to the rank of lieutenant and one for every investigator, the chief said.
And so far, so good.
“I absolutely love it,” said Sierra Vista Police Cpl. Scott Borgstadt, who is also the agency’s spokesman. “It catches absolutely everything that goes on. They help eliminate a lot of complaints we were getting.”
Borgstadt said the department has sometimes fielded complaints that an officer was rude, for example. The body camera video would then show differently in the officer’s favor. Of course that could work in the reverse in favor of someone who comes in contact with an officer, Borgstadt said.
One of the effects the cameras have is that they seem to help change a person’s behavior, Borgstadt said.
“People will see the camera and they’ll ask, ‘Is that recording?’” Borgstadt said. “It changes the way they act.”
SIERRA VISTA — Over the course of three hours Saturday night — not including the individual interviews earlier in the day — seven young women and three younger teens showed off their talent, passion and knowledge in the competitions for the Miss Sierra Vista and Sierra Vista Outstanding Teen crowns.
In the end, it was Ashley Fryer who wore a smile that sparkled as bright as the Miss Sierra Vista crown perched atop her head, while Kylie Holston was named the Outstanding Teen.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Fryer said in an interview following her coronation. “I’m still in shock, but I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve as the new Miss Sierra Vista. I am stunned, thrilled and excited just to know that never giving up truly does pay off. I am truly overjoyed.”
Fryer teetered between tears, clearly of joy, and giddy grins as she welcomed congratulatory embraces after the pageant. She had a faithful cheering section throughout the night, comprised of several family members, supporters from her church and other friends.
She said she looks forward to “definitely working in our community ... just generally being an overall wonderful representative for our Sierra Vista community” over the coming year.
“I’m just ready to serve the community,” she added. “I’m truly about service.”
Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels and Brittany Mazur-Smith emceed the competition, which scored each of the women and young teens on talent, interviews, and an on-stage question. The Miss Sierra Vista contestants also showed off evening gowns with a social-impact statement, while the teens also wore evening gowns and answered an on-stage question. The teens also were judged on a physical fitness routine.
Each participant in both the Miss Sierra Vista and Outstanding Teen divisions had a “platform,” or social cause, that they presented at the beginning of the evening. Fryer said she is anxious to “get my platform out there — ‘A confident you is a better you: Make your health essential.’”
Before the event began, Dannels also pointed out a rule change for this year: the competitors were no longer to be called “contestants,” but rather “candidates,” a point which drew a few chuckles from the audience as both emcees caught themselves slipping up a couple times throughout the evening, accidentally uttering “contestants.”
Miss Sierra Vista 2018 Jennifer Westbrook and last year’s Outstanding Teen Madilyn Edging were also involved in the competition, with each being recognized at the beginning and later crowning their successors at the end.
Mary Hyder, who directs the Miss Sierra Vista and Outstanding Teen programs and has been involved with Miss America for 21 years, said she is proud of all the contestants — rather, candidates — and said most of the young women she has seen come through the pageant over the years have a similar aim.
“The bottom line is most want to do their public service and earn scholarship money,” Hyder said. “And the crown is helpful to do their public service platform.”
More than $13,000 in scholarship funds were awarded Saturday, with Fryer winning $3,000 and first runner-up Martha Knurr winning a $1,500 scholarship.