Police force could get body cameras

Posted on July 4, 2016 by Mat Pellegrino

The City of Gulf Breeze could dish out money to provide body cameras for its police officers after a formal request was made by the city’s Police Chief to obtain the devices.
Within the past several years, numerous law enforcement agencies around the nation have worked to obtain body cameras that they make their officers to wear during their shifts.
The cameras have often proved to be helpful at many agencies for evidentiary purposes during traffic stops and other day-to-day police interaction.
Police Chief Robert Randle said the department has been looking into obtaining body cameras for a while now, but have been unable to in the past due to state privacy issues. But in a letter marked June 23 from the Police Chief to City Manager Edwin “Buz” Eddy, the chief explained that legislation has recently been passed that allows the department’s officers to use the cameras on their person.
“In the last few years, Body Worn Cameras have become the norm throughout the country. There was reluctance in Florida because privacy issues have not been worked out,” Randle said.
Currently, the police department has cameras mounted in their patrol vehicles, which they use during traffic stops.
“The officers driving these units wear microphones so that audio and video is captured on traffic stops,” Randle said.
But sometimes, those dash cameras are not able to capture everything the officers see or come into contact with while on patrol.
“The Body Worn Cameras are able to capture interactions anywhere the officers are, unlike in-car video that is only useful for interactions in front of the video cameras installed on the dash,” Randle said.
At Wednesday’s City of Gulf Breeze Executive Committee meeting, the letter from the chief was discussed between council members, along with several other GBPD requests that made it onto Wednesday night’s agenda.
Randle requested that the city purchase the body cameras for all of the department’s officers.
That adds up to 23 cameras for both full and part time officers.
Sharon Armstrong, the acting Deputy Chief of Police told South Santa Rosa News that the department has not utilized cameras in the past, but have tested some out.
“We are in the process of trying a certain brand out right now. And we are having certain officers use them right now to see if they work for us,” Armstrong said.
The total cost of the cameras would equate to roughly $30,000, which Randle said could be pulled from the city’s Red Light Camera Program.
In the past, GBPD tried out Motorola Vievu video and audio cameras, but the chief said he’d rather have his department look into cameras from a company called Watch Guard.
The reason for that, he said, is price and also ruggedness and functionality.
The Motorola cameras would add up to be roughly $3,000 more than the Watch Guard camera systems if the department bought all 23 at once.
“The Watch Guard cameras appear to be more rugged and integrate with our uniforms better and they produce an excellent quality video,” Randle said.
City of Council is set to approve or deny the request from the police chief at their upcoming City Council meeting on July 5.