Body Cameras Still Drawing Mixed Reactions From Florida Law Enforcement

Oct 1, 2015

Legislation surrounding body cameras has already been filed for the 2016 Florida legislative session. But, the topic in general is still drawing mixed reactions from law enforcement groups across the state.

Winter Park Police Chief Brett Railey is the new President of the Florida Police Chiefs Association. He says during this past legislative session, many law enforcement groups came together to work on what they’d like to see in terms of body cameras legislation.

“The Florida Police Chiefs Association has participated with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Sheriffs Association, the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, and the Attorney General’s Office to put laws in place that would protect the privacy issues of people that we perhaps, pick up on those cameras and then secondly, to establish some guidelines for the use of those cameras out in the field,” said Railey.

That legislation was carried by Rep. Shevrin Jones (D-West Park), who had initially called a stir in the law enforcement community when his original legislation mandated the cameras.

Last session’s past effort split the product into two parts. One became law, creating a public records exemption for the recordings done by law enforcement to address privacy concerns.

The other one failed to pass the legislature, requiring law enforcement agencies using the cameras to put policies and procedures in place. And, Jones has refiled that bill for 2016.

And, Railey says the Florida Police Chiefs have it in their sights.

“We’re working for that,” he continued. “Some of the legislation has already been put in place. We continue to work for that. So, it is an issue that we’re keenly aware of and we’re working to help resolve.”

As mentioned earlier, the Florida Sheriffs Association has worked on these issues. But, some sheriffs are not completely sold on the idea of using the cameras. Leon County Sheriff Mike Wood is one of them.

And, he says he has a lot of questions.

“Just a multitude of questions as it relates to the actual filming, when to, when not to…if you have a sexual battery victim, then obviously that’s a sensitive issue as far as videoing that person, going in and out of people’s homes,” said Wood. “They may or may not want your video on or off, and depending on the reason you’re there, they may have the latitude to ask you, so….”

He says he’s also has questions surrounding data storage.

“And, then it goes into an entire IT process, in terms of what do you do with all this data and how do you store it,” Wood asked. “Where do you store it? And, how do you reproduce it when public records requests are made for certain videos. So, I’m not saying I’m opposed to it. I’m just saying there’s a lot of questions. It’s not as simple as just going to work. There’s other questions to be answered.”

Wood says he wants to make an informed decision on whether his department should move forward on getting the body cameras. And, he hopes to do that, after attending a three-day body camera summit hosted by the Broward County Sheriff in Orlando later this month.

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