New Body Cameras Law On Florida Books, After Gov. Scott Signs Bill Thursday

Mar 24, 2016

Credit MGN Online

Florida has a new police body cameras law on the books. Governor Rick Scott signed the bill into statute Thursday.

As soon as the Governor signed the measure, the new law took effect. It’s supposed to go hand-in-hand with another law on the books that creates an exemption for the body camera recordings. It passed the Florida Legislature last year to address privacy concerns.

Rep. Shevrin Jones (D-West Park)—who worked on both bills—says the latest law requires law enforcement agencies who use the body cameras to create set guidelines.

“I’m excited that the Governor signed House Bill 93,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming. Last year, as you know, due to the budget due to the budget impasse between the House and Senate, it died. But, we brought it back this year, and it asks those agencies that are currently using police body cameras that they have to create rules and regulations for the usage of the cameras. But, it also makes it mandatory that they train those officers who are using police body cameras.”

The original bill was a mandate for law enforcement agencies across the state to use the cameras—but after working with other law enforcement groups, Jones changed the measure.

He says the overall goal is to encourage more and more law enforcers to use the body cameras.

In fact, after the legislative session ended, he saw many agencies start to move forward on the cameras.

“For example, Sheriff Scott Israel in Broward County, they rolled out police body cameras on Wednesday,” he added. “I think the city of Miami, they’re police department if Miami Beach Police Department, they rolled out police body cameras, now that they see that the state is more comfortable with the new technology.”

Months ago, Leon County Sheriff Mike Wood was unsure about whether his agency would use the cameras. He now says while the sheriff’s office most likely will, he still has some reservations.

“I think that ultimately we’re going to have them,” said Wood, earlier this month. “There is a cost factor, and you can’t pretend it doesn’t matter. It does matter! But, there are also a lot of questions that have to be answered: the acquisition of the data, the storage, and then the public records request. How do you reproduce the data? And, then when ask for data when you reproduce it, someone has to review it and in fact, redact things that are not public record. And, so, there’s a lot of fiscal impact there. I’m not opposed to body cameras per se. But, it’s a bigger question than it seems, really, at first glance.”

Still, aside from the matter of cost, Representative Jones says Wood’s concerns should be allayed in both new laws.

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