Another Tampa Bay police department has decided not to adopt the use of body cameras. As the Tampa Bay Times reports, the Clearwater Police Department has cited budget issues and lack of conduct issues in their decision to forgo using the technology.
“I definitely see the value of the item, and somewhere down the road it may become a regular tool in law enforcement,” said Clearwater Chief of Police Dan Slaughter. “I just think it’s a little premature right now to jump the gun and do something.”
The decision comes after a four-week pilot program for the Clearwater Police where they tested two different camera models. The test was said to cause “mixed reactions” among the officers, many who forgot to turn off or on their cameras at the appropriate time. There was also concern that—in cases where the cameras didn’t catch what an officer was looking at—the captured footage seemed to suggest cover-ups by the officers wearing them.
There were also other concerns: It’s estimated that it would cost $235,000 every year to maintain a body camera program. Clearwater’s pilot program report also noted that privacy was an issue—that capturing and distributing footage of citizens in crises would be inappropriate.
The Ongoing Body Camera Debate
Local agencies appear to be split on the body camera issue: Clearwater joins the sheriff’s offices in Pinellas and Hillsborough as another agency that has rejected them. The Gulfport and Pasco departments have started using them and the Tampa police just started testing 60 cameras, as well.
The technology rose in popularity following a year of headline-grabbing cases in which police officers killed unarmed, African-American men. Many hope that these cameras will not only be a boon for our justice system, but will help foster police accountability. “We’re not having the experience that some other places are having,” Slaughter said when asked about police misconduct issues. “We have a community that’s very supportive of us and very trusting.”
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