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Clearwater Police Department Will Not Use Body Cameras

The increase in media coverage of police shootings of civilians has sparked national outrage and calls for changes in policing to ensure that members of law enforcement are held accountable for their actions. One such measure was the call for more police officers across the county to be fitted with body cameras that would record police officers’ actions while they were on duty.

In July 2015, the Clearwater Police Department began a pilot program, outfitting five officers with body cameras for thirty days, to test whether or not the use of body cameras would be feasible for the department. After concluding the pilot program, the Clearwater Police Department has decided that in light of the costs of the program, and the low number of complaints alleging police misconduct, it will not extend the program to cover the department’s patrol officers. The department cited that it has only received 19 excessive force complaints with only two complaints being substantiated. The department is looking to increase the number of cameras in the department’s police cruisers.

Benefits That Outweigh Costs?

While this decision may be justified by the costs of storing the recordings from the cameras, there are also benefits to outfitting officers with cameras that may have outweighed these costs.   Especially because the federal government announced that it would provide grant funds to help local police departments acquire body cameras and learn to use them. Studies have shown that when some police officers are fitted with body cameras, they tend to change the way they interact with the community. Police officers wearing body cameras were also said to be more conscious of following policies and procedures, which may lead to fewer altercations with the public. Police body cameras may also be useful in providing evidence in criminal and administrative proceedings in which police officers are accused of misconduct.

A study by the University of Florida also found that some police officers who wore body cameras reported that the cameras changed civilian behavior in interactions with police in a positive manner. Some police officers also though the cameras made them better officers, helped them collect evidence, and write better reports after incidents. To be sure, an article in the Tampa Bay Times provides information on the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office’s decision to outfit its deputies with body cameras. Specifically, the article mentioned that use of the cameras provides significant benefit to both officers and the public. And a second article in the Tampa Bay Times supports these benefits, describing a deputy in Pasco County who resigned after body camera footage allegedly showed him falsifying incident reports.

For the public, there may be concerns that the use of cameras may lead to privacy violations for members of the public who are featured in the videos. These could range from people who are stopped or investigated by police officers, to victims and witnesses who speak to the police officers. While this is a valid concern, in developing a program for officers to wear body cameras, a police department can draft policies and procedures to protect different parties.

Given the benefits of having patrol officers wear body cameras, the decision by the Clearwater police department is unfortunate.

Contact A Clearwater Criminal Defense and Personal Injury Attorney

If you are facing criminal charges in Clearwater, you need to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney with a focus on getting the best result in every case to advise you on your case. Additionally, if you have been injured as a result of police misconduct, you may receive compensation for your injuries. Contact the Clearwater criminal defense and personal injury attorneys at Roman & Roman, P.A., for a consultation today.

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