After Second Go-Round, Body Cameras Bill Heads To Gov. Scott

Mar 7, 2016

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A bill putting guidelines in place for law enforcement agencies using body cameras is now heading to the Governor, after passing the Florida Legislature unanimously.

Last week, the Florida House passed Rep. Shevrin Jones’ (D-West Park) bill.

“This bill requires law enforcement agencies to provide policies and procedures as well as training to all personnel who use, maintain, store, or release body camera recording data,” said Jones, at the time. “Members, this is the same bill that we voted unanimously out of the House last year.”

Last year, Jones’ bill died, amid a budget impasse between the House and Senate. And, this session, Jones along with Rep. Alan Williams (D-Tallahassee) sponsored the measure again.

The original bill had mandated the body cameras, but to get law enforcement on board, it now sets rules in place for the voluntary camera usage.

Williams says despite some people’s misgivings on the issue, there are areas of the state that use the cameras, including within his district.

“In Havana, Florida, they already use the body cameras,” he said. “And, for them, I said, ‘why do you use it?’ They said, ‘we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect those we have decided to take the oath to serve and protect. We want transparency. We want to make sure that they’re doing the right thing. Not only are we going to use it as a training tool, we’re going to use it as a transparency tool and as an accountability tool.’ And, so, when I learned of that, I jumped right in and said, ‘I’m going to fine this bill.’ And, when I learned that Representative Jones had also filed the bill, I said, ‘well, look, we don’t have to have competing bills here. Let’s team up and work together.’”

Rep. Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed (D-Deerfield Beach)says while she too likes the bill, she hopes the effort can go further.

“Thank you, Representative Jones for this good bill, and I’m just hoping that we can move this on from not only police officers, but to all of our first responders to another bill to protect everyone’s rights,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Senate Monday unanimously passed the bill sponsored in that chamber by Sen. Chris Smith (D-Fort Lauderdale).

“What we’ve seen in society lately is the advent of body cameras that have taken a lot of the speculation out of law enforcement and law enforcement incidents,” he said. “Representative Jones and I have worked on this issue for two years in making sure that as we integrate more body cameras into our police departments that we also have adequate rules and regulations concerning the use of those body cameras in an attempt to get more of our agencies, more of our police wearing body cameras so we can get rid of a lot of speculation when it comes to law enforcement incidents.”

Sen. Oscar Braynon (D-Miami Gardens) says the legislation promotes transparency.

“…something that will help exonerate both parties,” he said. “It’s not about whether one side is right or the other. It’s about the truth, and that’s what this bill is about. It’s about getting to the truth and what actually happened. And, I believe everyone involved—all the parties involved—believe this is a step in the right direction.”

Sen. Darren Soto (D-Orlando) says the measure is particularly important for his district.

“We’ve seen around this country an unfortunate trend of young, minority men, both Hispanic, African American, and others be killed in issues and in scenarios where we didn’t know what happened,” he said. “And, it could have been that our law enforcement officers were in the right or there could have been civil rights violated. And, so, I know it’s very important to our sheriff back home, Sheriff [Val] Demings in Orange County, to make sure that both the officers and our young men and women who are the subject to potential arrests are all kept safe.”

And, with the House and Senate’s unanimous passage, it now gets sent to the Governor’s desk.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.