Legislators discuss statewide police body camera guidelines
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.- Many Florida police departments are already using body cameras. Now, more agencies are in the beginning stages of adopting them.
At their best, body cameras show what an officer is seeing and it eliminates questions about a case. While more than a dozen agencies are using them in Florida, there are no statewide guidelines on who, how, or when they can be worn.
Legislation approved by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee hopes to provide those answers. Among the issues discussed was what happens to the accidental video shot during a coffee break.
A coalition of police who packed the room, civil rights advocates, and even public defenders like the legislation.
“We wanted a consistent policy on these body cameras because of the privacy issues that are in front of all of us,” said public defender Bob Dillinger.
Pasco County says people are already protected by policies it has in place.
“It depends on what type of video it is. If it’s for a misdemeanor, we’ll keep it for whatever the statute of limitations is for a misdemeanor, so two years. For certain felonies, we’ll keep it longer. If it’s related to a homicide or sex case we’ll keep it indefinitely,” said Jeremiah Hawkes with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.
The guidelines legislation is one of two bills dealing with this new technology, a second is much more troubling for civil rights advocates.
The second bill gives almost compete control of who sees what, and when, to police.
“Even if someone is shot and killed by a police officer, the so-called ‘privacy considerations’ are going to trump the public’s right to know, said Michelle Richardson with the American Civil Liberties Union.
While civil rights advocates worry about cover-ups with the second piece of legislation, police are supporting both bills.