Wharton County Sheriff’s deputies will not be using their personal cell phones to conduct their duties anymore, commissioners said Monday.

Instead, the department will be issuing cellular phones after a request of their sheriff.

The change will provide a deputy or investigator a safer way of going about his/her business as it relates to the job, Sheriff Shannon Srubar said.

Recent legislation had placed new guidelines and restrictions on the use of cell phones for county business purposes.

“Currently our deputies are using their own personal cell phones for county business which can have some serious concerns,” Spenrath said. “Our deputies often give out their own personal cell phone numbers to crime victims and families of the victims so they can receive call backs for additional crime-related investigation discovery.”

Personal cell phone are being used to photograph accidents, crime scenes or sometimes victims during an investigation as well. As a result, the phone could become evidence.

Srubar will use the WCSO’s forfeiture funds to to obtain 14 Verizon phones paid out of through Fiscal Year 2020. This is not part of a new cell plan, but rather adding phones to the existing contract.

“The cell phones we will be using are not the best ones, but they are free. We’ll also be creating a very stern policy on what these phones are to be used for,” Srubar said.

The WCSO previously issued cameras to photograph for investigations, but, Srubar said, technology has paved the way for cell phones to take exceptional photos. This saves the department money.

“As far as the senate bill, you talk to different sheriffs around the state and everyone has their own opinion about it,” Srubar said. “My concern is I don’t want an officer at any time to have problems using their own cell phone (to get it) turned over to the court if we can prevent that from happening. We need to protect our officers, too, and by issuing these phones we’re going to be able to take care of that.”

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