Lee County Sheriff defends department’s record-setting budget proposal

Reporter: Dannielle Garcia Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno
FILE: Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno.(Credit: WINK News)

Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno is asking the Lee County Board of Commissioners to approve more than $241 million for the agency’s budget.

The proposed budget is a 12.2% increase over the budget that was approved for the sheriff’s office last year.

His priority is providing raises for deputies and other staff members.

What is not a priority is providing body cameras for those deputies.

The sheriff often talks about his Real Time Intelligence Center and how his detectives and deputies have the latest and greatest technology available to put bad guys behind bars.

His record-setting budget has lots of money for new technology, but there is not a single cent for something that is almost standard in law enforcement these days: body cameras.

The sheriff didn’t run away from the question and doesn’t seem to mind the fact that Fort Myers and Cape Coral police and both Collier County and Charlotte County Sheriff’s deputies all have body cameras.

Body cameras are not an investment the sheriff wants to make right now.

“Before I put however many millions of dollars of taxpayer money into body cams, I want boots on the street. I’d rather hire more people that are actually physically walking in the neighborhoods driving in the neighborhoods that people can see,” said Marceno.

Law enforcement uses body cameras to protect deputies, officers, and the people they meet. The video and sound often help to settle claims of excessive force and wrongdoing.

WINK News asked the sheriff if he would rather have the opportunity for his deputies to be able to defend their actions with the help of the body camera video.

“Of course, but I’m not willing to pay millions of dollars to do it. To store that data is millions, it’s a huge cost,” said Marceno.

Lee County Commissioner Kevin Ruane said he agrees with the sheriff.

“Do I get patrol cars or do I get cameras. Do I get surveillance equipment that might give me the ability to infrared a building so I know what I’m walking into or do I get cameras?” said Ruane.

More boots on the ground mean more deputies, and right now hiring and keeping them around is Marceno’s immediate priority.

With the cost of living soaring due to inflation, he also wants a 14% pay hike for deputies and staff.

“We want to be the place where people come and they want to be here and they commit to stay because they’re getting paid and they wanna live and stay where they work,” said Marceno.

Both commissioners Ruane and Brian Hamman said they’re inclined to give the sheriff what he wants in his proposed budget.

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